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Area Closings and Delays on Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Gilmer Free Press
Status of Area Closings and Delays on Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Glenville State College    
Gilmer County Board of Education    
Gilmer County Courthouse    
Gilmer County Health Department    
Gilmer County Senior Center  
 
Gilmer County Schools All Closed  
Braxton County Schools All Closed  
Calhoun County Schools All Closed  
Doddridge County Schools All Closed  
Lewis County Schools    
Ritchie County Schools All Closed  
 
Barbour County Schools All Closed  
Clay County Schools All Closed  
Harrison County Schools All Closed  
Nicholas County Schools All Closed  
Pleasants County Schools All Closed  
Roane County Schools All Closed  
Tyler County Schools All Closed  
Upshur County Schools All Closed  
Webster County Schools All Closed  
Wetzel County Schools    
Wirt County Schools All Closed  
Wood County Schools All Closed  

Please Send us your closings and delays:    or   304.462.8700

The Gilmer Free Press      The Gilmer Free Press

Report: Solar Job Growth Blazing Hot, but Bypassing West Virginia

The Gilmer Free Press

Job growth in the solar industry is blazing nationally, although it’s pretty cold by comparison in West Virginia.

An annual census by The Solar Foundation found the number of jobs in the solar industry is up by nearly a quarter over the year before, and up nearly 90 percent since 2010.

Solar Foundation president and executive director Andrea Luecke says most of these jobs pay well, and says much of the new work is in sales and installation. As solar power becomes more competitive, Luecke says more people will want it installed.

“It’s been phenomenal. Homeowners, commercial owners, even utilities,“ she says. “And as we have more solar installed on rooftops, on land, in parking lots and on top of landfills, we need people to do those installations.“

But in West Virginia, Luecke says state energy policies have limited the growth of solar employment. A good example is House Bill 2201, now sitting on the desk of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin awaiting his signature or veto. According to solar supporters, the bill could limit the ability of homeowners and businesses who have installed solar power to sell any excess power back to the grid.

Luecke says “net metering” is a key policy for supporting the industry’s growth, and adds one of the first bills passed by state lawmakers this year - repealing the alternative energy standard - could hurt solar expansion.

“West Virginia may see a real drop in employment in the wake of the state’s repeal of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act,“ she says. “It’s the first successful repeal of a state renewable portfolio standard.“

Luecke notes one key factor driving the white-hot national job growth of solar is a steep drop in the cost of solar cells. She says this means solar-generated electricity is becoming increasingly price-competitive.

“What you’re currently paying for conventional fossil fuels is about what you’ll pay for solar in many states,“ she says.

Only about 300 West Virginians work in solar-related fields, while the census says there are nearly 175,000 people employed in the industry nationwide.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

TIPS TO HELP PREVENT COMMON SCAMS

The Gilmer Free Press

Morrisey: A critical part of National Consumer Protection Week is aimed at helping consumers become more educated about scams and understand some common red flags.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today unveiled the top areas of scam complaints in 2014 and provided tips for consumers so they can avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people.

“This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and a critical component of that is educating consumers about the types of scams that are circulating and helping them understand some common red flags,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our Office received thousands of calls from consumers about scams last year. Some of the callers had been victimized by the scam; others just wanted to make us aware of them. We urge consumers to let us know any time they feel as though they have been contacted by someone who is trying to take advantage of them.”

The top 10 most common scams that were reported to the Consumer Protection Division in 2014 were:

    •  Credit card scams: A caller or robocall offers to lower the interest rate on a credit card, but seeks the consumer’s banking information so he or she can “verify” it.

    •  Tax scams: A person says he is with the IRS or other government agency and informs the consumer that delinquent taxes are due. The caller says the consumer could face jail time, foreclosure, or other threats if he or she does not pay immediately. Scammers also have told consumers they are eligible for a refund if they provide bank routing numbers.

    •  Sweepstakes and prize scams: A consumer is informed via mail, email, social media, phone call, or letter that he or she has won a prize or sweepstakes, but must pay a small fee to cover shipping, taxes, or other costs first.

    •  Loan and government grant scams: The consumer is informed via mail, email, social media, phone call, or letter that he or she is eligible for a free grant from a government agency or erasure of student loan debt, but must pay an upfront fee in order to receive it.

    •  Computer and technical scams: A caller says he represents a computer company or Internet service provider, expresses concern about the consumer’s computer or server, and directs the consumer to a website so the computer can be accessed remotely. Links to the website may infect the computer with a virus or the caller could lock the computer until a “ransom” is paid.

    •  Medical scams: This category includes scams dealing with medical alert systems, medical devices, class action settlements, and billing scams. Callers may ask for a consumer’s banking information, credit card information, Medicare number, or medical history.

    •  Email and phishing scams: Consumers are told they have unpaid tolls, won gift cards or other prizes, have services due to them, or include threats if they do not act immediately. The emails are designed to steal money by installing malware or viruses on a consumer’s computer or seek personal information.

    •  Warrant scams: A caller informs the consumer that there is a warrant out for his or her arrest for missing jury duty, passing bad checks, or other violations. The caller will offer to dismiss the warrant if the consumer pays immediately with a pre-paid debit card, money order, or wire transfer.

    •  Lottery scams: Consumers are informed they have won a major prize, including a “second-chance prize” for losing lottery tickets, but must pay upfront fees or surrender personal information in order to receive it.

    •  Gift card scams: Scammers use texts, emails, phone calls, social media and other means to offer free gift cards for well-known businesses. Consumers may be asked to click on a link, text a specific number, or go to a website to complete a survey or provide information. Doing any of those could expose the consumer to computer viruses, identity theft, or unauthorized charges.

“Every week it seems our Office hears of a new scam making its way through West Virginia and surrounding states,” Morrisey said. “We believe education is the best defense against scammers, con artists, and identity thieves. Reputations take years to build, but an unsavory character online can ruin that quickly. “

Morrisey said consumers should be on guard against these common red flags of scammers:

    •  The consumer is asked to provide his or her Social Security number, banking information, or credit card number.

    •  Caller requires upfront payment before a consumer can access a prize, award, sweepstakes, or other gift.

    •  Caller poses as a government official or utility worker who demands immediate payment for an unpaid bill, unpaid taxes, or fines.

    •  Caller demands payment is made with a pre-paid debt card, money order, or wire transfer, which are virtually untraceable and often cannot be rescinded once they have been made.

    •  Websites, emails, texts, or other communications have poor grammar, spelling, or sentence structure.

    •  The consumer is contacted by an unsolicited person offering to “fix” a problem the consumer never knew he or she had.

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800.368.8808 or the Eastern Panhandle field office in Martinsburg at 304.267.0239. To file a report online, go to www.wvago.gov.

Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville to Present “Fossil Day at the Mound” on March 07, 2015

Fossil enthusiasts having trouble identifying their treasured finds are invited to bring their discoveries to Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville for its biannual Fossil Day program from Noon to 4:00 PM on Saturday, March 07, 2015.

This family-oriented activity is suitable for all ages and is free and open to the public.

Visitors can bring their fossils and meet Mitch Blake, manager of coal programs at the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (WVGES) in Morgantown.

He will provide expert identifications and answer questions regarding fossil remains brought to the program.

The Gilmer Free Press


Blake holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Waynesburg University and a master’s and Ph.D. from West Virginia University. He has worked as a coal geologist at WVGES since 1978, specializing in basin analysis and Appalachian coal geology.

Grave Creek Mound will offer hands-on activities, including an indoor fossil dig in which real fossils can be found by cracking open and examining rocks. Visitors can make fossil impressions in clay and create a fossil bed that will be excavated during the September 12 Fossil Day at the Mound. They also can make a hand-held fan featuring West Virginia’s official state fossil, the giant ground sloth known scientifically as Megalonyx jeffersonii. Members of the West Virginia Fossil Club, based in Clarksburg, will be on hand to guide the activities, discuss fossils and provide fossil-related displays.

The WVGES will present its 1993 film Rocks and Rivers: West Virginia’s Geologic Heritage throughout the day in the Delf Norona Museum’s theater.

For more information about Fossil Day at the Mound or other programs at Grave Creek Mound, contact Andrea Keller, cultural program coordinator, at 304.843.4128 or at .

Operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex features the largest conical burial mound in the New World and ranks as one of the largest earthen mortuary mounds anywhere in the world.

The Delf Norona Museum, located at 801 Jefferson Avenue, is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday.

GOVERNOR TOMBLIN ISSUES STATEWIDE STATE OF PREPAREDNESS

The Gilmer Free Press

Governor urges all West Virginians to take steps to say safe during potential severe weather

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today issued a statewide “State of Preparedness,“ mobilizing state resources to help keep West Virginians safe during potential severe weather.

“Snow and ice are thawing and melting across the state, heavy rainfall is predicted for many areas, and large amounts of snow could follow,“ Governor Tomblin said. “Because this severe weather may affect many people across the state, I have issued a statewide State of Preparedness to mobilize state resources, including the West Virginia National Guard, to address heavy rainfall, potential flooding, high winds and additional winter weather forecasted this week.

“As you make preparedness plans, I encourage you to talk to your family about what to do and where to go. Remember to check on the elderly and your neighbors and consider a plan to care for household pets.“

Governor Tomblin also noted potential weather may leave neighborhoods without power and other utilities, and service providers are ready to address outages and other issues as they arise. He encouraged residents to think about the items families may need to stay safe for at least forty-eight hours, including food, water, medications, flashlights, batteries and fuel for generators.

The State of Preparedness statue was passed last year to allow the governor to mobilize necessary resources in advance of predicted severe weather or large-scale threats. The powers are similar to those involved in a State of Emergency but allow for additional preparations in advance of the expected event.

To read the proclamation in its entirety, Click H E R E.

First Energy to Invest $225 Million on Infrastructure

The Gilmer Free Press

FirstEnergy Corp. expects to spend about $225 million this year on distribution and transmission infrastructure projects in Mon Power’s 34-county service area.

About $97 million is earmarked for transmission-related projects. One project involves a new 138-kilovolt transmission line that will support the natural gas industry and enhance electric service reliability for nearly 13,000 MonPower customers in the Clarksburg and Salem areas. That’s a $38 million project.

More than $25 million will be spent to provide electrical service to new residential and commercial customers in north-central West Virginia, specifically the Interstate-79 corridor and Parkersburg region.

The utility will also inspect about 75,000 distribution poles and replace about 250 poles at an expected cost of more than $800,000.

Mon Power serves about 385,000 customers in 34 West Virginia counties.

Gilmer County Commission Regular Meeting - 03.06.15

The Gilmer Free Press

GILMER COUNTY COMMISSION  
AGENDA for REGULAR MEETING
Friday, March 06, 2015 @ 9:00 AM
Gilmer County Courthouse
Commission Office – 10 Howard Street, Glenville, WV

I. CALL TO ORDER


II.  PLEDGE of ALLEGIANCE TO THE U.S. FLAG


III. PUBLIC COMMENTS


IV. APPOINTMENTS

                9:15     Karen Elkin – RE:  Heat in the Courtroom

                9:30     Cindy Wilson – RE:  Gilmer County Health Center Leasing and Financial Status

                9:45     Ron Taylor – Chief of Security, GSC – RE:  911 Dispatch Answering GSC Security Calls


V. ROUTINE BUSINESS:

        Discussion and/or action on:

                1) Exonerations and/or Consolidations

                2) Approve Estate Qualifications and Estate Settlements

                3) Board Appointments and/or Resignations: 

                        a) Board Seats remain open on the:

                                i. ** Unsafe Buildings & Lands Enforcement Agency - Dekalb/Troy & Glenville Corporation

                4) Budget Revisions

                5) Budget Control Report:  NONE

                6) Approve Invoices for Payment

                7) Approve County Commission Minutes for 02.20.2015

                8) Receipt of County Board Minutes: 

                        a) Gilmer County Parks & Recreation Board 12.16.2014 & 01.20.2015

                        b) E-911 Dispatching Report for January


VI. UNFINISHED BUSINESS

                1) Renewal of Office of Emergency Management Personnel Contract

                2) Letter from Little Kanawha Transit Authority in Reference to FY 2015-16 Financial Support

                3) Receipt of Proposed Letter of Agreement for E-911 and Dispatch Services for 2015-2016 Fiscal Year


VII. NEW BUSINESS:

        Discussion and/or action on:

                1) Sign Award Agreement for $11,249 for 2014 Emergency Management Preparedness Grant


VIII. OTHER BUSINESS


IX. EXECUTIVE SESSION AS NEEDED


X.    ADJOURNMENT


NEXT MEETING: March 20, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Federal Study: Foster Kids Struggle to Get Health Screenings

The Gilmer Free Press

Some foster children are not getting their required medical screenings even though the visits are paid for by Medicaid, federal health investigators warn in a study released Monday.

The Health and Human Services’ inspector general study looked at a random sample of roughly 400 foster children from California, Texas, New York and Illinois and found nearly 30% did not receive one or more of their required health screenings between 2011 and 2012. Of those who did not receive at least one required screening, 12% did not receive their initial screening and 17% did not receive one or more periodic screenings.

Experts say foster children tend to experience a high rate of chronic medical, developmental, and mental health issues. They often face challenges getting access to health care. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that to identify and treat foster children’s health problems, it’s critical for states to ensure they get access to these services.

States have struggled with this issue for years. Investigators have been issuing reports about foster children’s access to health care since 2003. A 2010 study of foster kids in nine states found that three of four foster children did not receive all required medical, vision, and hearing screenings even though they were enrolled in Medicaid. At least 60 percent of the children who received a medical screening were missing one component of it, according to the study.

Each state is responsible for ensuring that foster children receive health screenings on time, but the federal Administration for Children and Families under HHS funds the state programs and has ultimate oversight.

The report recommends that the agency work with states to identify barriers that prevent foster children from accessing health care and strategize ways to work with foster parents on this issue, including incentivizing families to increase participation in regular health screenings.

Leading Creek Governance Board Regular Meeting - 03.10.15

The Gilmer Free Press

AGENDA
REGULAR MEETING
Leading Creek Governance Board
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 – 9:00 AM
Gilmer County Board of Education Conference Room

I. CALL TO ORDER - Roll Call by Chairperson


II. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE


III. REPORTS/FOLLOW-UP ACTION


IV. CONSENT AGENDA-NEW BUSINESS

        A. Minutes:  November 21, 2014

        B. Personnel

        C.  Curriculum

        D.  Finances

        E.  Facilities


V. CHAIRPERSON INFORMATION/ACTION

        A. Proposed Legislation


VI. DELEGATIONS


VII. ADJOURNMENT

West Virginia News     150304

The Gilmer Free Press

GOVERNOR TOMBLIN VETOES ABORTION-BAN BILL

Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has again vetoed a bill banning abortion 20 weeks after conception, citing constitutionality concerns.

Lawmakers only need a simple majority to overturn policy vetoes, however.

Tomblin nixed the bill Tuesday, saying he urged lawmakers to find a compromise. Instead, he said the bill is substantially similar to what he vetoed last year.

Tomblin, a Democrat, again stressed his anti-abortion stances.

The Republican Legislature passed it overwhelmingly this year, and it passed easily last year under Democrats.

The bill provides some exemptions for women in medical emergencies, but not for rape and incest.

Proponents have cited moral grounds. Opponents say it’s unconstitutional and intrusive into doctor-patient relationships.

Both bills resemble a law struck down in Arizona in 2013 that the U.S. Supreme Court later decided not to reconsider.


NUMBER OF INCARCERATED IN WV STILL GROWING

West Virginia’s prison population continues to grow, despite state efforts to turn the tide.

The Journal reports that the number of inmates under the jurisdiction of the state has increased by more than 500 since July 2013. It now stands at 5,865.

Regional jails are also housing more people.

The Justice Reinvestment Act of 2013 provided for nearly $2.5 million in funding to reduce the number of repeat offenders. This was to be achieved through workforce training programs and creating more community-based substance abuse treatment services throughout the state.

Part of the problem is West Virginia’s high incarceration rate. The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 715 people for every 100,000 residents. In West Virginia, the rate is 895 per every 100,000 residents.


WV WOMAN ADMITS STEALING $450,000 FROM EMPLOYER

A 58-year-old Hurricane woman is scheduled to be sentenced in June for stealing nearly $450,000 from her employer.

Sandra Ball pleaded guilty in federal court in Huntington on Monday to two counts of wire fraud.

The government says Ball was employed as an auditor for a small business in Hurricane. Over a period of five years, ending in 2013, she transferred money from her employer’s checking account to her personal credit card. She used the money to pay for personal items.

Ball could be sentenced to 40 years in prison and be fined up to $500,000.


CHARTER SCHOOLS BILL ADVANCES

After weeks of debate and Democratic outcry, the Republican-led Senate cleared a reform Monday to allow charter schools in West Virginia.

In an 18-16 party-line vote, senators passed a bill that would strike West Virginia from the list of eight states that don’t allow charter schools.

The state House of Delegates, also with a Republican majority, will consider the bill before the legislative session ends March 14.

The bill would allow two new charter schools in the state for the first five years. Local school boards would have the final say over whether to open them in their counties. State education officials would start seeking proposals at the end of June 2016.

Republican advocates said West Virginia needs to change its approach, given the state’s abysmal educational, economic and quality-of-life rankings.

“The time for debating and arguing is over,“ said Senator Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia. “We all know that we need something here in West Virginia different than what we’ve been doing.“

Democrats said the reform would permit inequality across student populations, while siphoning money from the public school system.

“It is our responsibility to be architects for systemic change that will benefit all children, rather than the chosen few,“ said Senator William Laird, D-Fayette.

Senator Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, challenged Democrats to propose a better plan, saying that spending more money wasn’t the answer. He said the lottery system for picking students would be fair and randomized.

Charter schools generally have more flexibility in using public money and have more accountability requirements.

Senator Robert Plymale, a Wayne County Democrat who opposed the bill, said there needs to be a stronger push for Innovation Zones, where public noncharter schools can get waivers from state education policies and additional money, in certain cases. It passed the Legislature last year.

Unions and many teachers have fought against the charter-school push, while business groups have been advocates of the change.

Monday’s vote closes weeks of long committee meetings and testy back-and-forth exchanges on the Senate floor.

Democrats thought they had killed the bill in a late February committee vote. Afterward, Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, pronounced himself “Proud of what I did.“

The next day, Republicans resurrected the bill on the floor, and Democrats accused them of breaking the rules to do it.

It became the most-heated conflict between the parties since Republicans earlier this year took control of the Legislature for the first time in more than eight decades.

Meanwhile, it appears that the controversial Common Core educational standards will remain in place in West Virginia’s public schools.

The state Senate’s top vote counter says there isn’t sufficient support to repeal Common Core.

On Sunday, Republican Majority Whip Daniel Hall told The Charleston Daily Mail he doesn’t believe the repeal would garner enough votes. He also said he doesn’t favor the repeal.

The Republican-led House of Delegates passed it 75-19 Saturday.

The legislative session ends March 14. Bills that could be vetoed by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin must pass even sooner.

Republicans can override policy vetoes with a simple majority - more “yes” than “no” votes.

It takes several days from passage to ship Tomblin a bill. Then he has five days to sign it during session.

Tomblin’s Department of Education says the Common Core repeal would cost $128 million, a number some Republicans dispute.


A ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ VOTE FOR WEST LIBERTY U PRESIDENT

The West Liberty University faculty senate has voted no confidence in President Robin Capehart, who is facing an ethics complaint.

The vote Monday was 13-6, according to media reports.

The vote follows a complaint in January by the West Virginia Ethics Commission alleging Capehart used university resources to promote his film company’s movie “Doughboy.“

The complaint states that Capehart used a state credit card to promote the film and a university television station to advertise the movie, among other claims.

Capehart has denied the allegations.

The university’s board of governors is expected to discuss the matter at its March 11 meeting.

The Ethics Commission has scheduled a public hearing for April 16 in Charleston.


HARRISON BOE, PERSONNEL DISCUSS PENDING EDUCATION LEGISLATION

In a special session Monday night, the Harrison County Board of education met with teachers and service personnel concerned with pending legislation making its way through the State Capitol.

“They have some real concerns about what’s going on in Charleston and I said ‘I share your concerns,‘“ Superintendent Mark Manchin said. “If our teachers have concerns, if our service personnel have concerns, then we have concerns because they’re ultimately the one who deliver the education here in Harrison County.“

Teachers—both union and non-union—told board members after catching up to the work going on with potential education reform, they had to speak up before it is too late.

“I think that people are upset that people so far removed from the classroom, legislators, though they’re elected, are making decisions that are somewhat in the dark and disadvantage children,“ Greg Phillips, a teacher at Robert C. Byrd High School and president of the Harrison County Education Association said.

One of the main pieces of legislation the group takes umbrage with is S.B. 14, The Charter Schools Act, which passed the Senate Monday night and would allow county school boards to establish public charter schools.

Those in attendance said that West Virginia is simply not the place for charter schools and will create a system of “winners and losers” as the rules of who could attend such schools could potentially be determined by a lottery selection.

“They don’t solve the problems,“ Phillips said. “Certainly, in a rural setting, all it does is serve to take the resources away from the local board and we feel that would be detrimental to our children. We’re taking resources out of our own classrooms that we use everyday by doing that.“

Phillips pointed to studies that show results on charter school performance varies by location [The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University 2009, 2013] and the teacher turnover rate was higher in charter schools, affect overall performance [Vanderbilt University, 2009].

Another bill those in attendance had concerns with was H.B. 2005, allowing individuals with alternative certification to teach in classrooms throughout the state.

Many felt it an insult that what they went to school for years in order to do could be learned by individuals seeking alternative certification in a five-week course. They also feared this would encourage younger, aspiring teacher to not go through college to become an educator in leiu of saving their money and receiving their certification.

Superintendent Manchin does not anticipate the county would use any individuals with alternative certifications in classrooms in the foreseeable future due to the fact they do not have an issue with a lack of certified personnel.

“The board showed their solidarity with our teachers to assure that we will not allow any non-certified teachers in our classrooms,“ he said. “We only want to have the best that we can possibly find to teach our children. We’re very pleased with the quality of our teachers in Harrison County and with the quality of our service personnel.“

Overall, both sides felt they were able to communicate their concerns with one another and better understand where each group stands on the issues. Phillips believes they have the backing of the board.

“They showed support and understand that in order to have professionals in some of these vacant positions, you need to pay professionals, professional salaries,“ he said. “You need to untie the hands of teachers to do their jobs and I heard that coming from board members. I think they were receptive.“

A rally for education personnel and teacher unions across the state is being planned for this Saturday at the State Capitol Complex. Phillips said he anticipates up to 8,000 people to participate.


COMPANY PROPOSES BUILDING 2 GAS-FIRED POWER PLANTS IN WV

A company plans to spend about $1 billion to build two natural gas-fired power plants in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

The Brooke County Commission approved a memorandum of understanding for the project on Tuesday.

Energy Solutions Consortium LLC plans to build a 750-megawatt plant and a 550-megawatt plant on the former Wheeling Corrugating property in Beech Bottom. The property will be purchased from the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.

Business Development Corporation executive director Pat Ford says the company and the county are working on a payment in lieu of taxes agreement. Energy Solutions would pay the county more than $25 million per plant over 30 years.

The project is expected to create 60 permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs.


WV SUPREME COURT TO HEAR 5 CASES AT WVU COLLEGE OF LAW

West Virginia’s Supreme Court justices will make an annual trip to West Virginia University to hear cases at the College of Law.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments in five cases on Wednesday in the law school’s Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom. The cases include the Jefferson County prosecutor’s challenge of a circuit court order dismissing all but one of 54 counts against a woman accused of fraudulently using a state purchasing card.

Each spring, the justices travel to Morgantown to hear an argument docket at the law school. Bad weather prompted the cancellation of last year’s event.


WYOMING COUNTY SCHOOL CANCELS CLASSES FOLLOWING GYM FIRE

Classes at a Wyoming County school have been canceled following a fire.

Wyoming County Schools Superintendent Frank Blackwell says the fire was contained to the gym at Baileysville Elementary and Middle School.

He says the fire occurred early Monday morning.

The fire caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. Blackwell says school officials are lucky that the fire didn’t cause a major loss.

School officials hope to resume classes on Tuesday.


LEWIS COUNTY BEGINS PLANNING 200TH ANNIVERSARY

Weston recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, but Lewis County is getting ready for a celebration of its own.

The Lewis County Commission has begun planning for the County’s 200th anniversary.

The big day is in December of 2016, but commissioners are planning now to allow everyone a chance to celebrate.

U.S.A. News   150304

The Gilmer Free Press

PAYPAL TO ACQUIRE MOBILE WALLET PROVIDER PAYDIENT

EBay’s PayPal payment unit is acquiring mobile wallet operator Paydient ahead of PayPal’s spinoff as the mobile payment sector heats up.

Paydient provides a mobile wallet platform for retailers and companies including Subway, Harris Teeter, Capital One and others. They also provide the mobile wallet platform for MCX, a mobile pay consortium whose members include many of the world’s largest retailers, including Walmart, Target, Sears, CVS and many others.

Competition in the mobile wallet sector is heating up with the launch of Apple Pay, Samsung offering Samsung Pay beginning this summer and Google teaming up with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile to have its Google Wallet payment service built into Android phones sold by those carriers.

PayPal says the company says that the acquisition will let it offer its merchants another way for their customers to pay for goods. Merchants can use the mobile system both online and in stores in a variety of different payment types, such as store-branded credit cards and gift cards. Merchants can also use any payment technology in brick-and-mortar locations like QR codes or near-field communication to take payment.

“We’re giving very easy access for consumers to pay any way they want to pay and letting merchants get paid any way want to get paid,” said Bill Ready, CEO of PayPal’s Braintree unit, a specialist in mobile payments that PayPal bought in 2013.

EBay has been planning to spin off its PayPal payments business in the second half of the year.

Bryan Yeager, analyst at research firm eMarketer, said gives PayPal a stronger foothold for in-store retail mobile payments.

“It’s likely PayPal will use this acquisition to get its own payment options in front of more consumers using mobile payments in-store,” he said.

Financial terms of the Paydient deal weren’t disclosed. The deal is expected to close in late March or April.


BILL GATES REPEATS AT TOP OF FORBES’ LIST OF BILLIONAIRES

The world’s richest person got even richer this year. And a basketball superstar-turned-owner made the list for the first time.

Forbes said Monday that Bill Gates’s net worth rose to $79.2 billion in 2015 from $76 billion last year. That put him at the top of the magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires for the second consecutive year. The co-founder of Microsoft Corp. has topped the list for 16 of the last 21 years.

In second place is Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim Helu, with a net worth of $77.1 billion. He had topped the list in 2013.

Next is investor Warren Buffett, who moved up one slot this year with a net worth of $72.7 billion. In fourth place was Amancio Ortega, the Spanish co-founder of clothing retail chain Zara, with a net worth of $64.5 billion. Rounding out the top five was Larry Ellison, founder of technology company Oracle Corp., with $54.3 billion.

Forbes said there were 1,826 billionaires on its list this year, up from 1,645 in 2014. Added together, they were worth a combined $7.05 trillion, up from $6.4 trillion last year.

Most of those on the list were men. But there were 197 women, up from 172 a year ago. The highest-ranking woman was Christy Walton, the widow of John Walton, a son of the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. She has a net worth of $41.7 billion, according to Forbes.

The world’s youngest billionaire was 24-year-old Evan Spiegel, the CEO and co-founder of mobile messaging company Snapchat, with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Snapchat’s other co-founder, 25-year-old Bobby Murphy, had the same net worth as Spiegel. Other tech billionaire newcomers were two co-founders of taxi-ordering app Uber and one of its executives. Three co-founders of Airbnb, the vacation-home rental website, also made the list.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan joined the list for the first time this year, thanks to his ownership in basketball team Charlotte Hornets and payouts form his Nike brand. Jordan had a net worth of $1 billion, the magazine said.

This is the 29th year that Forbes has released its billionaires list. The magazine said it calculated each person’s wealth based on stock prices and exchange rates on February 13, 2015.


JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REVIEW FINDS PATTERN OF RACIAL BIAS AMONG FERGUSON POLICE

The Justice Department will issue findings this week that accuse the police department in Ferguson, MO, of racial bias and routinely violating the constitutional rights of citizens, including by stopping drivers without reasonable suspicion, making arrests without probable cause and using excessive force, officials said.

In hundreds of interviews and in a broad review of more than 35,000 pages of Ferguson police records and other documents, Justice officials found that although African Americans make up 67% of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93% of all arrests between 2012 and 2014.

The findings come as Justice Department officials attempt to negotiate a settlement with the police department to change its practices. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the department could bring a lawsuit, as it has done against law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions in recent years. A U.S. official said that Ferguson officials have been cooperating.

As part of its findings, the Justice Department concluded that African Americans accounted for 85% of all people stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90% of all citations issued.

The Justice Department plans to release evidence this week of racial bias found in e-mails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials. A November 2008 e-mail, for instance, stated that President Obama could not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

The Justice Department did not identify who wrote this and other racist e-mails and whom they were sent to. Officials at the department spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the review and its findings before a planned release this week.

The review concludes that racial bias and a focus on generating revenue over public safety have a profound effect on Ferguson police and court practices and routinely violate the Constitution and federal law.

The Justice review also found a pattern or practice of Ferguson police using unreasonable force against citizens. In 88% of the cases in which the department used force, it was against African Americans. In all of the 14 canine-bite incidents for which racial information was available, the person bitten was African American.

In Ferguson court cases, African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge, according to the Justice review. In 2013, African Americans accounted for 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

From October 2012 to October 2014, 96% of people arrested during traffic stops solely because of an outstanding warrant were African American, the review found.

Justice investigators also reviewed types of arrests and the treatment of detainees in the city jail by Ferguson police officers.They found that from April to September 2014, 95% of people held longer than two days were black. The Police Department also “overwhelmingly” charges African Americans with certain “petty offenses,” the investigation concluded.

For example, from 2011 to 2013, African Americans accounted for 95% of all “Manner of Walking in Roadway” charges, 94% of all “Failure to Comply” charges and 92% of all “Peace Disturbance” charges, the review found.

The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation last fall into the actions of Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. Officials told The Washington Post last fall that they had all but concluded that they did not have a strong enough case to bring charges.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had promised that before he stepped down, he would release findings from a broader review that began on September 04 of whether Ferguson police routinely engaged in racial profiling or a pattern of using excessive force.

Holder, who is expected to leave office within the next two weeks, could release the findings as soon as Wednesday, officials said.

Justice investigators spent about 100 days in Ferguson, observing police and court practices, including four sessions of the Ferguson Municipal Court. They conducted an analysis of police data on stops, searches and arrests, as well as data collected by the court, and met with neighborhood associations and advocacy groups. The investigators also interviewed city, police and court officials, including the Ferguson police chief and his command staff.

In the past five years, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has opened more than 20 investigations of police departments, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five.

The department has entered into 15 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with nine of them, including the New Orleans and Albuquerque police departments.

Justice officials have seven open investigations, including a civil rights inquiry into the Cleveland Police Department. In December, the department issued a report accusing the Cleveland police of engaging in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force — including shooting residents, striking them in the head and spraying them with chemicals.

The department and Cleveland agreed to establish an independent monitor to oversee changes, including better training and supervision of officers.

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WHY MIDWESTERN FARMERS WANT TO BREAK THE CUBA EMBARGO

Cuba policy sometimes makes strange bedfellows, which is how a man like Thomas Marten, a burly Illinois soybean farmer with a bushy red beard, had come to Havana to make a statement about the principles of free enterprise. “As a Republican, I believe in trade for the betterment of all people,“ he said, as he rushed to another business meeting with communist officials. “Prohibiting it is something that hurts us all.“

Printed on Marten’s business card was a large, undulating American flag, and his title: Zanesville Township GOP Committeeman.

Marten is the kind of American whose views about Cuba may ultimately lead to the undoing of the so-called Cuba embargo, 54 years after the United States first imposed trade sanctions on the Castro government and two months after President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Havana.

[Cuba says terror list, banking issues are blocking better ties with the U.S.]

Over the years, no country in the world has triggered more U.S. government penalties and fines on private businesses than Cuba, and Marten had come to Havana with nearly 100 other American farmers, farm lobbyists and former U.S. agriculture officials looking to throw a little weight behind a new push against those sanctions.

Calling itself the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the group isn’t shy about its interest in selling more American food to the communist government, but its members also appear sincerely interested in helping the island’s small farmers after decades of technological isolation and the disastrous legacy of state-run agriculture.

The group met with Cuban government officials Monday, then planned to visit local farmers and “get our boots directly in the mud,“ said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, the coalition’s leader, a Cargill executive.

The Cuba effort isn’t a new one for the farm lobby. But after Obama’s announcement, it had produced a new enthusiasm, said the group, telling foreign reporters and television cameras from Cuban state media that supporters of the embargo in Congress were “a minority.“

Lawmakers have offered new proposals to lift U.S. trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, but it’s unclear whether Republican leaders will allow the measures to come up for a vote.

“Obama has set the tone for the termination of the embargo,“ said Mike Espy, former agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton. Joining him was John Block, who held the job under President Ronald Reagan.

“This is a two-way street,“ Block said. “We want to help Cuban agriculture and we want to sell corn and soybeans to Cuba.“

American food sales to the island peaked at more than $700 million in 2008, according to trade figures. That made the United States one of Cuba’s largest trading partners at the time, despite the sanctions.

But because the U.S. sanctions limit the sales to a cash-only basis and bar U.S. banks from financing the sales, Havana has increasingly looked elsewhere to cover its import needs. Last year the Castro government spent less than $300 million on U.S. food, mostly frozen chicken and soybeans.

Cuba has stopped buying U.S. wheat entirely, and rice shipments have plunged as well, the farm group said.

Instead Cuba has turned to Brazil, Argentina and other nations whose banks can finance the food sales.

Despite the country’s ample land and favorable climate, Cuba imports some 60 to 70% of its food, costing the cash-strapped government some $2 billion a year. Much of what the island’s 11 million residents consume through the government’s ration card system consists of imported chicken, oil and rice.

“People think of Cuba as a tiny market, but as recently as 2010, it was the fifth largest market in the world for U.S. food exports,“ said Mark Albertson of the Illinois Soybean Association.

The new Cuba regulations put in place by the Obama administration do not allow the island’s farmers to export to the United States. Albertson said one way to make American food sales to Cuba more competitive would be to have “two-way” commerce, in which international shippers wouldn’t charge extra for returning empty.

The inability to offer financing will continue to hurt American producers, Albertson said. “Nowhere else in the world are we forced to do business without being able to offer credit, so that will be the main problem,“ he said.

With its benevolent winter climate, economists say Cuba could one day export tomatoes and other vegetables all across the eastern United States during the cold-weather months, along with traditional crops like sugar, coffee and tobacco.

Agriculture is one of the few sectors of the Cuban economy that has seen significant liberalization under Raul Castro. But the government still doesn’t allow farmers to freely import tractors, trucks and other modern equipment, and Cuban growers say they won’t be able to significantly boost output until the state gets out of the way.


CHINA’S BIGGEST VIRAL VIDEO RIGHT NOW IS THIS TWO-HOUR-LONG DOCUMENTARY ON POLLUTION

The most popular viral phenomenon on Chinese Internet right now has nothing to do with the color of a dress or a baby weasel riding a woodpecker. It’s a 104-minute-long documentary about the environment.

Produced and narrated by Chai Jing, a former investigative reporter for Chinese state television, the film “Under the Dome” is in the style of a TED talk or an activist Al Gore documentary, looking at the grim state of air pollution in China and what can be done to remedy it.

The film takes aim at the lax practices and individual poor habits that lead to smog blanketing China’s cities. After being uploaded on the weekend, it has generated hundreds of millions of views and social media posts by Chinese netizens.


Chai says she was motivated to embark on the project when she was pregnant and discovered that her unborn child suffered from an ailment likely related to China’s noxious air. “I’d never felt afraid of pollution before, and never wore a mask no matter where,“ Chai, 39, says in the video, according to the Guardian. “But when you carry a life in you, what she breathes, eats and drinks are all your responsibility, then you feel the fear.“

The film generated a huge, emotional response online, including angry comments directed at China’s political authorities.

“Support Chai Jing or those like her who stand up like this to speak the truth,” said one commenter on Youku, a Chinese equivalent to YouTube, who was quoted by the New York Times. “In this messed-up country that’s devoid of law, cold-hearted, numb and arrogant, they’re like an eye-grabbing sign that shocks the soul.“

Importantly, China’s censors have done little to stifle the conversation surrounding the film, and in some sense it has received the government’s imprimatur. Chen Jining, the country’s new environment minister, praised Chai and the film on Sunday, saying it reflected “growing public concern over environmental protection and threats to human health.“

In authoritarian China, issues of environmental policy and reform provide one of the few spaces for an independent civil society to make its concerns known.

It also helps that “Under the Dome” includes a call to action on the part of all Chinese.

“This is how history is made,“ Chai says toward the end of the film, after she convinces a street vendor to use more environment-friendly equipment. “With thousands of ordinary people one day saying, ‘No, I’m not satisfied, I don’t want to wait. I want to stand up and do a little something.‘“

2015 Gilmer County Pony League Final Sign-Up Announcement - This Friday

The Gilmer Free Press
2015 Gilmer County Pony League
Final Sign-Up Announcement!!!

Friday, March 06, 2015 at Glenville Elementary Cafeteria
6:00PM to 8:00 PM

Player registration forms, medical release forms, and a volunteer forms for any parent interested in volunteering during the season, will be handed out at sign ups at the dates mentioned above.

Sign-Up Requirements For Players & Volunteers:

• Birth Certificate

• 2 forms of Identification (Photo ID, Social Security card, etc.)

• 2 Proofs of residency


Note: Enclosed in this sign up announcement packet you will find a detailed difference of the previous year’s league compared to the Pony League start up.

Important Note: There was a typo on the signup papers sent home with the kids.  To be eligible to play Gilmer county pony league softball in the 9 year old to 12 year old division your league must be no more than 12 years old by December 31, 2014 if your league age has reached 13 years old on or before December 31, 2014 you will have to play in the 13 year old to 15 year old division.

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Sports News   150304

The Gilmer Free Press


The Gilmer Free Press

►   Area High Schools Boys Sectional Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, March 03)


#7 Gilmer County 68     Calhoun County 26

#4 Robert C. Byrd 61     #6 Lincoln 41

#7 Ravenswood 63     Ritchie County 32

#2 Bridgeport 68     Grafton 57


►   Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, March 03)


#1 Morgantown 63     Parkersburg 24

Buckhannon-Upshur 57     #8 Jefferson 49


►   Area High Schools Boys Sectional Schedule - Wednesday

Class “AAA” Region 2, Section 2:

(6-14)Buckhannon-Upshur at (11-9)Lewis County, 7:00

Class “A” Region 1, Section 2 (at Doddridge County High School):

(11-12)Trinity vs. (10-12)Paden City, 6:00

(11-10)Valley Wetzel vs. (16-4)Saint Marys, 7:30

Class “A” Region 2, Section 1 (at Elkins High School):

(8-12)Tygarts Valley vs. (14-7)Notre Dame, 6:00


►   Area High Schools Girls Sectional Schedule - Wednesday

Class “AA” Region 1:

(12-11)Ritchie County at (21-2)Fairmont Senior, 7:00


Class “AA” Region 2:

(11-9)Frankfort at (17-5)Lincoln, 7:00

(15-7)Bridgeport at (20-2)Keyser, 7:00



The Gilmer Free Press

►   MEC Men’s Basketball Tournament: First Round Wrap-Up

(Tuesday, March 03)


#7 Notre Dame 98, West Virginia State 93 | Final Stats

Notre Dame College held off West Virginia State and came away with a 98-93 over the Yellow Jackets in the first round of the MEC Tournament at Murphy Gymnasium.

The Falcons (16-13) now advance to take on second-seeded Fairmont State on Friday at noon at the Charleston Civic Center.

NDC was paced by a 33-point, seven-rebound effort from Lawrence DeArmond. Tyree Gaiter and Will Vorhees each added 22 for the Falcons in the win.

West Virginia State (6-25) had 19 points apiece from Damion Harris and Dominic Phillips.


#8 Shepherd 63, #9 West Virginia Wesleyan 56 | Final Stats

Shepherd trailed by six points with under six minutes left, but closed the game on a 20-7 run to defeat West Virginia Wesleyan, 63-56, in the first round of the MEC Tournament at the Butcher Center.

The Rams (15-14) advance to take on top-seeded West Liberty on Friday night at 6 p.m.

Austin Cunningham led SU with 22 points to go with four rebounds and four assists on the night. Morgan McDonald scored 13 points and had five rebounds, and Ryan McTavish added 12.

Tanner McGrew had 20 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Bobcats (11-18). Anthony Richards contributed 14 points.


#5 Glenville State 92, UVa-Wise 64 | Final Stats

Glenville State shot 57 percent from the field and cruised to a 92-64 win over UVa-Wise in the first round of the MEC Tournament at the Waco Center.

The Pioneers (19-10) advance to take on fourth-seeded Charleston on Friday night at 8:15 at the Charleston Civic Center.

Six players reached double figures for GSC, led by 15 from Donte Morales. Sedric Nady and Brett Morris scored 13 each, and Brien Winston, Luke Campbell and Juwan Wells each netted 10.

Tyler Maggard led UVa-Wise (2-26) with 14 points. Brian Sydnore added 13.


#6 Wheeling Jesuit 100, Urbana 84 | Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit shot a blistering 64 percent from the field on its way to a 100-64 win over Urbana in the first round of the MEC Tournament at the McDonough Center.

The Cardinals (20-9) also hit 13-of-21 from behind the arc (62 percent) in the victory. WJU now advances to take on third-seeded Concord on Friday afternoon at 2:15 p.m.

Justin Fritts led the way for Wheeling Jesuit with 20 points on the night. Chase Lawson came off the bench to score 19, and Eric Siefertfinished with 15.

Urbana (6-23) was led by 31 points from Matt Csuhran. Mike Newton had 19 points and Carlas Jackson had 18.


►   MEC Women’s Basketball Tournament: First Round Wrap-Up

(Tuesday, March 03)


#9 UVa-Wise 77, #8 Concord 59 | Final Stats

UVa-Wise raced out to a 15-point halftime lead and defeated Concord, 77-59, in the first round of the MEC Tournament at the Carter Center.

The Cavs (10-19) advance to face top-seeded West Liberty on Thursday afternoon at 6 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

UVa-Wise had all five starters reach double figures led by 18 from Taylor Sandidge. Blair Harding, Katie Jo Dockery and Kehana Grayer each scored 14, and Kayla Carey scored 10 and pulled down nine rebounds. UVa-Wise shot 47 percent from the field and dominated the glass, 50-33.

Concord (8-21) was led by 21 points from Jacqueline Kestner. Kylie Molisee had 12 points to go with 12 assists.


#7 Glenville State 81, #10 West Virginia State 70 | Final Stats

Keyanna Tate went for 37 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Glenville State to an 81-70 win over West Virginia State in the first round of the MEC Tournament at the Waco Center.

The Pioneers (15-12) advance to take on Shepherd on Thursday at noon at the Charleston Civic Center.

GSC forced 25 turnovers in the game and had 21 offensive rebounds. In addition to Tate’s scoring, Katrina Salins added 16 points.

Rachel Ward led WVSU (8-20) with 21 points and Alexus Hobbs added 19.


#5 Fairmont State 110, #12 Urbana 80 | Final Stats

Hailey Garrett scored 30 points and added12 rebounds to lead Fairmont State to a 110-80 win over Urbana in the first round of the MEC Tournament at Joe Retton Arena.

The Falcons (22-7) advance to take on Wheeling Jesuit on Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

FSU also received 22 points from Emily Lohr, 20 from Hallie Gunnoe and 19 from Amanda Ruffner.

Kennedy Boggs led Urbana (1-28) with 20 points. Katy Barkley scored 14 points to go with nine rebounds.


#6 Notre Dame 76, #11 West Virginia Wesleyan 63 | Final Stats

Notre Dame closed the game on a 15-3 run to pull out a 76-63 win over West Virginia Wesleyan in the first round of the MEC Tournament at Murphy Gymnasium.

The Falcons (18-11) were led by 21 points and eight rebounds by MEC Player of the Year Martha Nagbe. Kim Cook scored 11 and Alyssa Kraus chipped in 10 points.

Adrian Cunningham scored 16 points and Mari Stewart added 14 points in the loss for the Bobcats (4-23).


►   MEC Announces Men’s Basketball Awards

West Liberty’s Seger Bonifant is the 2015 Mountain East Conference Player of the Year, Wheeling Jesuit’s Pat Moseh is the Freshman of the Year, and Concord’s Kent McBride is the league’s Coach of the Year.

Bonifant, a junior from Berlin, Ohio, helped lead WLU to a second-straight MEC regular season title by averaging a league-best 24.1 points per game. He is sixth in the country in scoring, and leads the nation in three-point field goal percentage knocking down 53 percent of his shots from behind the arc while making 3.9 threes per game. He’s reached double figures in scoring in all 27 games this season for the fourth-ranked Hilltoppers.

Moseh, a freshman from Springfield, VA, led all MEC freshmen in scoring averaging 13.7 points per game to go with five rebounds per game for the Cardinals. He finished the season strong for WJU scoring in double figures in nine of his last 10 games and averaging 17.3 points during that stretch.

Picked to finish 10th in the MEC preseason poll, McBride guided Concord to a 20-8 record and a third-place finish in the Mountain East Conference in 2015. The 20 wins this season are the most in his four years as the Mountain Lions head coach, and the first 20-win season at CU in over a decade.

In addition to the individual awards, the league also announced 2014-15 all-conference teams. Joining Bonifant on the first team were repeat selections Eric Siefert (Wheeling Jesuit) and Lawrence DeArmond (Notre Dame). Concord’s Mike Boyd and Aaron Miller, along with Nick Harney (Fairmont State), Tanner McGrew (West Virginia Wesleyan) and Donte Morales (Glenville State) also earned first team recognition.

WLU’s C.J. Hester and Devin Hoehn and Charleston’s Chris Evans and Jevonte Hughes were second team honorees, along with Justin Fritts (Wheeling Jesuit), Tyree Gaiter (Notre Dame), Markee Mazyck (West Virginia State) and Jamel Morris (Fairmont State).

The All-MEC teams are selected by a vote of the league’s coaches.

2015 All-MEC First Team
Name School Cl. Pos. Ht. Hometown
Seger Bonifant West Liberty Jr. F 6-7 Berlin, Ohio
Mike Boyd Concord Sr. G 6-0 Cincinnati, Ohio
Lawrence DeArmond Notre Dame Sr. G/F 6-1 Cincinnati, Ohio
Nick Harney Fairmont State Sr. F 6-8 Cleveland, Ohio
Tanner McGrew WV Wesleyan Sr. F 6-8 Buckhannon, WV
Aaron Miller Concord So. G 6-1 Stephens City, VA
Donte Morales Glenville State Sr. G 6-5 Virginia Beach, VA
Eric Siefert Wheeling Jesuit Jr. G 6-4 Reynoldsburg, Ohio
2015 All-MEC Second Team
Name School Cl. Pos. Ht. Hometown
Chris Evans Charleston Sr. G 6-3 Stamford, CT
Justin Fritts Wheeling Jesuit Jr. G 6-1 Mentor, Ohio
Tyree Gaiter  Notre Dame Jr. G 5-7 Cleveland Heights, Ohio
C.J. Hester West Liberty Sr. F 6-4 West Mifflin, PA
Devin Hoehn West Liberty So. G 6-0 Parkersburg, WV
Jevonte Hughes Charleston Jr. F 6-5 Kalamazoo, MI
Markee Mazyck WV State Jr. F 6-6 Washington, D.C.
Jamel Morris Fairmont State Jr. G 6-4 Gahanna, Ohio
2015 All-MEC Honorable Mention
Name School Cl. Pos. Ht. Hometown
Austin Cunningham Shepherd Sr. G 6-2 Belpre, Ohio
Terry Hopewell Concord Jr. F 6-8 Columbus, Ohio
Morgan McDonald Shepherd Sr. F 6-6 Inwood, WV
Reggie Williams Glenville State Sr. G 6-3 Virginia Beach, VA
Thomas Wimbush Fairmont State So. F/G 6-7 Lorain, Ohio
Player of the Year: Seger Bonifant (West Liberty)
Freshman of the Year: Pat Moseh (Wheeling Jesuit)
Coach of the Year: Kent McBride (Concord)


The Gilmer Free Press

►   Kansas fights off WVU in OT, wins Big 12 outright

An overtime nail-biter saw No. 9 Kansas win the Big 12 regular season title outright with a hard-fought 76-69 comeback victory over No. 20 West Virginia.

The Mountaineers led by eight with under two minutes remaining in regulation to put themselves on the verge of spoiling Kansas’ Senior Night, something no team had done in over 30 years.

But the Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4 Big 12), despite losing leading scorer Perry Ellis to an injury and missing all 15 of their 3-point attempts, battled back and survived to win their 32nd straight home finale. They finished 16-0 at home this season and have won 24 straight at Allen Fieldhouse.

Frank Mason III led Kansas with 19 points, Jamari Traylor added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Kelly Oubre Jr. and Devonte’ Graham combined for 22 points off the bench for the victors.

“I just felt like we had to make plays, guys were stepping up and we fought back,“ said Traylor.

Winning in Lawrence is tough enough, but the Mountaineers (22-8, 10-7) nearly pulled off the feat with leading scorer Juwan Staten (ankle) and starting guard Gary Browne (ankle) both sidelined. Staten hit the go-ahead shot in the final seconds against the Jayhawks two weeks ago.

“We just didn’t do enough at the end, but I thought our guys played hard,“ West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t play very smart.“

The rematch was not pretty, with both teams combining for 38 turnovers and West Virginia shooting just 16-of-28 from the foul line compared to Kansas’ 34-of-43 showing from the stripe.

Jevon Carter, who scored 25 points in a loss to Baylor on Saturday, shot 0- for-10 from the floor and missed two big free throws late in regulation. Daxter Miles Jr. scored a team-high 23 points, while Jonathan Holton totaled 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Ellis did not get a chance at redeeming himself after missing a potential game-winner at the buzzer against West Virginia two weeks ago. The star forward suffered an apparent knee injury on a collision with a teammate near the end of the first half and did not return.

His injury compounded a miserable start for the Jayhawks, who went nearly nine minutes without hitting a field goal early on and trailed by 18 at one point.

The Jayhawks fell in a 22-10 hole because of their drought and faced a daunting 40-22 deficit after Tarik Phillip scored off the offensive glass with under two minutes to go before halftime. West Virginia pulled down an impressive 14 offensive boards in the first half alone and took a 40-26 cushion in the break.

It was West Virginia’s turn to go cold in the second half. Kansas took advantage and used a 9-0 run to pull within single digits, 42-35, following a Wayne Selden Jr. dunk less than five minutes in.

The Mountaineers still held a seemingly comfortable 57-49 lead with under two minutes left in regulation, but after Kansas’ Brannen Greene hit a pair of free throws, they threw the ensuing inbounds directly out of bounds. Traylor and Mason both hit buckets in the lane to pull the Jayhawks within two.

Carter went 1-for-2 at the free throw line on two straight trips around a Mason layup to keep the Jayhawks within two, and Graham tied things with two free throws after he was fouled away from the basket with 11.5 seconds left.

After Carter missed a straightaway 3-pointer, Landen Lucas blocked Nathan Adrian on the right block at the buzzer.

West Virginia turned it over three times and missed two more free throws in overtime, and the Jayhawks, who had not led since it was 6-4, took control with their suddenly deafening crowd behind them.

Traylor’s emphatic slam in transition gave Kansas the lead for good at 67-65, and Mason scored the team’s final eight points, including six from the foul line in the final minute.

Game Notes

Kansas earned at least a share of the Big 12 title for the 11th straight year ... Kansas only sports one senior on its roster in the seldom-used Christian Garrett, who was inserted into the starting lineup and got his name in the scorebook with an early foul ... The Mountaineers went 6-4 in true road games ... Kansas came in leading the conference in 3-point shooting at 39.7 percent ... Nebraska was the last team win in Kansas’ home finale, doing so on March 02, 1983.



<The Gilmer Free Press

►   Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, March 03)


Final Score: (1) Kentucky 72, Georgia 64

Kentucky put a scare into Big Blue Nation, but Karl-Anthony Towns and the top-ranked Wildcats found a way to win another close game. Towns scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and No. 1 Kentucky rallied past Georgia 72-64 in front of a raucous Stegeman Coliseum crowd to remain unbeaten. The Bulldogs had Kentucky on the ropes, leading by nine past the midpoint of the second half. But like it has so many times this season, the Wildcats flipped the switch at the right time. Aaron Harrison scored 16 points and his brother Andrew had 12 for Kentucky (30-0, 17-0 SEC), which will try to polish off a perfect regular season when it hosts Florida on Saturday. Nemanja Djurisic paced Georgia (19-10, 10-7) with 18 points, and fellow senior Marcus Thornton chipped in 14 on Senior Night.


Final Score: (4) Villanova 76, Creighton 72

Ryan Arcidiacono’s three-point play late in the game led No. 4 Villanova to a 76-72 victory over Creighton on Tuesday. Arcidiacono had 23 points, Dylan Ennis added 19 points and Josh Hart had nine points and five rebounds for the Wildcats (28-2, 15-2 Big East), who have won 11 straight and already secured the Big East title. Austin Chatman had 21 points and five rebounds, James Milliken added 12 points and Rick Kreklow donated 11 for the Bluejays (13-17, 4-13), who have lost their last two.


Final Score: (9) Kansas 76, (20) West Virginia 69 (OT)

An overtime nail-biter saw No. 9 Kansas win the Big 12 regular season title outright with a hard-fought 76-69 comeback victory over No. 20 West Virginia. The Mountaineers led by eight with under two minutes remaining in regulation to put themselves on the verge of spoiling Kansas’ Senior Night, something no team had done in over 30 years. But the Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4 Big 12), despite losing leading scorer Perry Ellis to an injury and missing all 15 of their 3-point attempts, battled back and survived to win their 32nd straight home finale. They finished 16-0 at home this season and have won 24 straight at Allen Fieldhouse. Frank Mason III led Kansas with 19 points, Jamari Traylor added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Kelly Oubre Jr. and Devonte’ Graham combined for 22 points off the bench for the victors.


Final Score: (10) Maryland 60, Rutgers 50

Dez Wells had 20 points and 10 rebounds and No. 10 Maryland held on for a 60-50 win over lowly Rutgers on Tuesday. Wells keyed an 8-0 Maryland run after Rutgers tied the score with around six minutes remaining in the game. His bank shot stopped a Rutgers flurry and his steal and breakaway dunk highlighted the Terrapins burst, which gave them a 53-45 lead. Rutgers scored the next five points, but Wells came through again with a tough layup despite lots of contact from Scarlet Knights forward Kadeem Jack, giving Maryland a five-point lead with just over a minute to play. Jake Layman added 14 points and Melo Trimble had 10 for the Terrapins (25-5, 13-4 Big Ten), who have won six in a row since a loss at Iowa on Feb. 8.


Final Score: (19) North Carolina 81, Georgia Tech 49

Joel Berry II scored 15 points and Justin Jackson added 13 as No. 19 North Carolina coasted to an 81-49 road victory over lowly Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The Tar Heels (21-9, 11-6 ACC) posted back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month and head into Saturday’s home showdown against rival Duke with a head of steam. Seven UNC players scored at least seven points, and Marcus Paige’s career-high six steals highlighted a defense that forced 18 Georgia Tech turnovers. Charles Mitchell and Demarco Cox scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, to lead the Yellow Jackets (12-18, 3-15), who finished their regular season on a four-game losing skid. They will be one of the bottom three seeds in the ACC Tournament next week.


Final Score: Georgetown 60, (21) Butler 54

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera made two key free throws with 6.2 seconds left to help the Georgetown Hoyas hold off the 21st-ranked Butler Bulldogs, 60-54, on Tuesday. Butler pulled within 56-54 on Alex Barlow’s layup with 52.1 seconds remaining. Following an empty possession for each team, Joshua Smith missed the front end of a one-on-one. Kameron Woods came down with the defensive rebound but Smith-Rivera snuck up from behind for the steal. Smith-Rivera made both foul shots to give Georgetown a 58-54 edge. Tre Campbell then recorded another steal before making two free throws.


►   Wild week leads to changes across AP Top 25 poll

The stability of The Associated Press Top 25 these past several weeks blew up during a tumultuous week of big victories and upsets.

Kentucky, Division I’s only undefeated team, remained entrenched at No. 1 after two routs. The Wildcats (29-0) were a unanimous choice for the fifth straight week after receiving all 65 first-place votes from a media panel Monday.

Two more weeks on top and Kentucky will become the eighth team and first since UNLV in 1991 to go wire-to-wire in the AP poll. Virginia (27-7) held at No. 2 following two lopsided wins.

Then the fun begins. This was a week in which 15 of the 25 teams from the previous poll lost, including two that lost twice.

Gonzaga and Wisconsin both lost, so the next three teams behind them moved up: Duke one place to No. 3, Villanova and Arizona each up two spots. The Badgers fell to sixth after losing to Maryland and the Bulldogs dropped four spots to No. 7 after losing to BYU.

No. 8 Wichita State moved back into the top 10 after winning its Missouri Valley Conference showdown with Northern Iowa. Kansas dropped a spot to No. 9 after losing to Kansas State.

Maryland’s wins over Wisconsin and Michigan moved the Terrapins into the top 10 for the first time since 2003.

Northern Iowa’s first trip to the top 10 lasted one week; the Panthers were down to No. 11 after the loss to the Shockers. Notre Dame also fell out of the top 10, down three spots to No. 12 after losing to Syracuse.

Despite all the changes, the top seven — in various orders — have remained the same for seven straight weeks. It’s the first time that’s happened since the 1992-93 season, when the top seven held up for eight straight weeks.

Got all that?

And that was just the top 10.

The rest of the poll was just as chaotic, with only three teams holding steady from last week: No. 13 Utah, No. 18 Arkansas and No. 20 West Virginia. All three teams lost.

There’s only two weeks left until the final poll March 16, but with the conference tournaments coming up, quite a few more changes could be on the way.

___

TERRAPINS’ RISE: A founding member of the ACC, Maryland switched to the Big Ten this season and has quickly established itself among the conference’s best teams.

With their 59-53 win over then-No. 5 Wisconsin and a victory over Michigan last week, the 10th-ranked Terps moved into the top 10 this week for the first time being ranked No. 8 on February 4, 2003.

Maryland (24-5) finished 18-1 at home and was unbeaten there in Big Ten games after beating the Wolverines 66-56 on Saturday.

RACING RACERS: Murray State made a name for itself by climbing to No. 9 in the 2012 AP poll and finishing 12th. The Racers are back in the poll for the first time since then, thanks to a 24-game winning streak.

Murray State (26-4) finished its Ohio Valley Conference season 16-0 and heads into this week’s conference tournament as the No. 1 seed as it tries to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

RISING AND FALLING: The biggest move was by No. 14 Baylor, which rose five sports after defeating Iowa State and West Virginia. Iowa State had the biggest drop, down five spots to No. 17 after losing to the Bears and Kansas State.

No. 19 North Carolina, like Gonzaga, fell four places after losing to North Carolina State.

IN AND OUT:

Ohio State returned to the poll at No. 23 to join Murray State as this week’s newcomers.

VCU dropped out from No. 22 after falling to Richmond and Dayton. San Diego State’s return to the poll lasted one week; the Aztec


►   Putting numbers to the NCAA tournament’s so-called ‘bubble’

With less than two weeks before the NCAA tournament selection committee unveils this year’s 68-team men’s basketball bracket, expect to hear a lot of talk about “the bubble”: Who’s on it? Who’s off it? Whose burst? ¶ But what does “the bubble” really mean? ¶ It would seem a quite amorphous term, particularly because it appears to be applied to nearly every team outside the AP top 25. But studying the history of at-large bids provides a much more rigid definition of the bubble; the flux involves the teams bouncing around it.

A look back at RPI profiles dating from the 2000 NCAA tournament illuminates a fairly consistent cutline and a strong correlation among at-large bids, total losses and ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index.

When tournament selection committee members are asked to justify their choices, two questions comprise a familiar refrain: “Who did you play?” and “Who did you beat?” With a formula that evaluates performance based on the location and quality of a team’s victories and emphasizes strength of schedule (75% is based off a team’s opponents and their opponents’ opponents), that’s precisely what the RPI does.

Since the tournament field expanded to 68 teams in 2011 (37 of them at-large bids until the American Athletic Conference automatic bid reduced that to 36 in 2014), a total of 147 at-large bids have been handed out.

Thirteen of them have gone to teams with 13 or more losses (8.8%). The 14-loss teams have earned 3.4% of those bids. In terms of the RPI, just two teams have cracked the field with a rank of 60 or worse. On the other side, 94.5% of teams ranked 50th or better have made the tournament one way or another since 2011. Still lingering in the 50s? You’re squarely on the bubble.

What’s all this mean for the 2015 bubble?

Here’s a look at the more curious cases as we approach Selection Sunday:
Locks

No team, from any conference with an RPI of 30 or better, has missed the tournament since 2011. Three teams could test the security of history this season: Colorado State, Tulsa and Boise State. But any loss from here out by those teams likely would bounce them out of the top 30, thus keeping this benchmark secure.
Outliers on the inside

Since 2011, the only eligible major conference teams in the top 50 of the RPI to miss the cut have been Missouri (No. 49) and Minnesota (No. 50) last season. Even after you add in the remaining conferences, a full 94.5% of the 200 teams in the top 50 from 2011 to 2014 made the tournament.

But 94.5% isn’t 100%. So who are the teams in peril in 2015? The top candidates:

Colorado State/Boise State: The Rams’ strength of schedule ranks 114th and impresses precisely no one. They have one big win over a surefire tournament team (San Diego State), with their next best coming at home against Boise State, another team fighting to stay in the bracket despite a strong RPI ranking (28).

Buffalo: Games against Kentucky and Wisconsin have helped keep the Bulls’ RPI ranking strong (31), but they have no wins against the RPI top 50 and likewise have no shot at an NCAA tournament spot unless they win the Mid-American Conference’s automatic bid.
The true bubble teams

Texas is just 5-12 against the RPI top 100 and already is guaranteed a losing conference record, but that conference (the Big 12) also is the nation’s best according to the RPI.

The Longhorns can’t afford to lose out, but a top 50 RPI entering Monday night’s game against Baylor and the 11th-strongest schedule in the nation will keep them in the conversation for the final few spots.

Three teams truly precariously perched entering the season’s final week all reside in the Big Ten: Indiana (RPI No. 44), Purdue (57) and Illinois (59). Purdue and Illinois play the last week of the regular season. That’s likely do-or-die for the Illini, but the Boilermakers can finish no worse than 11-7 in the Big Ten. The last time a Big Ten team posted a winning conference record and missed the tournament was Illinois in 2010, but that team had 15 losses overall.

Pittsburgh has two big wins (at home over Notre Dame and North Carolina), two bad losses (Hawaii and Virginia Tech) and no margin for error to end the regular season. The Panthers almost certainly need to knock off one of the ACC’s top teams in the conference tournament to get into the bracket.

Finally on the West Coast, UCLA and Stanford are trying to squeak in. The Bruins may have to bank on a strong strength of schedule (22nd in the nation). Stanford either has to upset Arizona in the regular season finale or hope no one notices its only top 50 RPI win is over a Texas team in rapid decline.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Mark Cuban will play the president on SyFy’s ‘Sharknado 3′

This summer’s “Sharknado 3″ will usher in the Cuban-Coulter administration.

The SyFy network said Monday that Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban will play the president of the United States in the third installment of the goofy “Sharknado” TV movie series, set to premiere in July. Conservative commentator and author Ann Coulter will be his vice president.

The network previously said Bo Derek will have a cameo as star Tara Reid’s mother, Jerry Springer will play a tourist and ‘N Sync singer Chris Kirkpatrick will be a pool lifeguard.

This year the toothy storm terrorizes Washington, D.C., before moving down to Florida.


►   Jordan, other NBA owners join Forbes’ billionaire list

Michael Jordan and some other NBA owners have reached new heights, landing on Forbes world list of billionaires.

Forbes released its list on Monday and noted that Jordan’s net worth is estimated at $1 billion, thanks to his well-timed investment in the Charlotte Hornets.

Steve Ballmer, who recently purchased the Los Angeles Clippers, tops the list of sports-related billionaires with a net worth of $21.5 billion. The net worth of NBA franchise values increased this past year after Ballmer bought the Clippers for $2 billion.

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander’s net worth is listed at $1.6 billion and Chicago Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf is worth $1.3 billion, according to the magazine.

Jordan and Reinsdorf are newcomers to the list while Alexander returns for the first time since 2007.

The 52-year-old Jordan, a Hall of Fame player who won six NBA championships with the Bulls, reached billionaire status last June, according to the magazine. This is his first year on Forbes’ annual list which typically is released in March.

Jordan acquired the majority stake in the Hornets in 2010 for $175 million. Forbes last June listed Jordan’s equity as owner of the Hornets is $416 million and his net worth outside of the team to be $600 million.

Among the other notables of sports-related billionaires is Seahawks owner Paul Allen, worth $17.5 billion.

Some other NFL owners to make the list include Stephen Ross (Dolphins, $6.5 billion) Stanley Kroenke (Rams, $6.3 billion), Robert Kraft (Patriots, $4.3 billion) and Jerry Jones, (Cowboys, $4.2 billion).


►   Nothin’ but Net: East playoff spots up for grabs

In an NBA defined recently by who DOESN’T want to make the postseason, there is a playoff race for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference over the final six weeks.

The Atlanta Hawks are on the verge of clinching a postseason berth and lead the conference by 9 1/2 games. I’d have to both get a shower and go to confession if I told you that was going to happen.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in and would be the favorite right now. The Chicago Bulls and their MASH unit will go. The Toronto Raptors haven’t looked good in two weeks, but own a 12-game lead in the Atlantic Division.

The Washington Wizards, despite playing like the Washington Generals, will play into late April.

And, yes, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to the playoffs, despite having the worst record in the league last season, losing the favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year to a torn ACL, trading their fringe All-Star point guard at the deadline, and having a coach who was generally considered a joke about 13 months ago. It’s a funny world. It snows in March, Matthew McConaughey has an Oscar and the Bucks are in the postseason.

That essentially leaves two spots, assuming epic meltdowns don’t occur. Washington and Milwaukee are not playing well at the moment, but the Wiz are eight ahead of the eighth seed and the Bucks are 6 1/2 clear.

These final slots are wide open.

The Miami Heat, the four-time reigning Eastern Conference champions, own the seventh seed with a half-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets. Both are playoff- tested franchises with talent, but not enough to make them mortal locks come tax day.

The Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets, both playoff teams a season ago, trail Brooklyn by a half-game. The Boston Celtics are 1 1/2 games behind and the Detroit Pistons are 2 1/2 back.

I examined future schedules and data to best prognosticate who will get those two final spots.

As the seventh seed, the Heat are in the best position, but it’s tenuous. They made a sensational deadline deal to bring Goran Dragic, an All-NBA third- teamer last season, to Miami. It’s the kind of move that made most think the Heat would be a team no one wanted to see in the playoffs.

Then, Chris Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. That’s an All- Star big man, who was having a strong season, done for the remainder of the docket.

The Heat have 23 games remaining, 13 are at home and 10 are away. They play 11 games against opponents with winning records, 12 losers. What really works in Miami’s favor is that the Heat close the season with a home game against the Orlando Magic and a road tilt versus Philly. That’s cupcake city.

How much does Erik Spoelstra need Dwyane Wade to make the postseason? Does Spo play him in games he should normally rest in order to get to the playoffs? Can Dragic get acclimated quick enough? All fair questions.

The Nets have 24 games left and their home-road split is best among contenders, or so-called contenders. Brooklyn has 15 games at the Barclays Center and nine on the road. However, with 11 home wins, does it matter?

What can the Nets get out of Deron Williams, who has looked good recently? They have 20 conference losses, which is a lot considering the weakness of Eastern teams. A huge problem on the horizon for the Nets is that seven of their last eight are versus winning teams, including two with Atlanta.

The Pacers are the most interesting team lurking. With 13 home games and 10 road tilts, that’s in their favor, but their last three are against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington and the season finale in Memphis. That’s not a great set-up if the Pacers desperately need those wins.

The biggest factor in any Indiana postseason run is the availability of Paul George. He’s ahead of schedule from that vomit-inducing leg break in the summer. He wants to come back in two weeks and could obviously be a huge difference maker. Head coach Frank Vogel won’t throw George into the mix 30 minutes a night, but getting one of the 15 best players in the league back in time for a playoff push is obviously a huge advantage. He’ll keep the defense strong and improve an offense ranked 24th in scoring, 23rd in field-goal percentage and 22nd in 3-point shooting.

Charlotte is in a similar position. They are waiting for Kemba Walker to get back from knee surgery and it could be another two weeks. Coach Steve Clifford is already planning on playing Walker and Mo Williams together. Williams has been crazy good since coming before the deadline.

The Hornets are scary when healthy because they usually defend. Williams won’t help that, but Charlotte has 14 of its final 25 versus teams with losing records. The Hornets have a west trip still on the docket, but it’s not overwhelming with stops in Utah, Sacramento and Minnesota.

The Hornets have to be a little concerned with three of their last four on the season as visitors. The home game is against the Houston Rockets, so that’s no bargain and two of the road opponents are Atlanta and Toronto, the top two teams in the conference, but will those squads have anything to play for by then?

Boston also has been aided by a trade deadline move. Isaiah Thomas has already won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor in his first week with the Celtics.

Boston has 14 road games as opposed to 11 home contests. The C’s last four opponents all have winning records. That doesn’t bode well, but the bigger question for the Celtics is, do they kill themselves to try to make the playoffs? They’d be better served missing the postseason and continuing Danny Ainge’s impressive rebuilding.

The Pistons have the tallest mountain to climb considering they’re farthest down in the standings. Their season turned around as soon as they showed Josh Smith the door, but when Brandon Jennings’ left Achilles turned into a fruit roll-up, their chances seemingly died.

Detroit has only nine home games left. The Pistons play only 10 games against opponents with winning records the rest of the way and five of their last six are against teams with losing records. Four of those five are versus Miami, Indiana, Charlotte and Boston and all four are at The Palace, so the Pistons won’t have any excuses if they’re still in it.

The easiest choices would be Indiana and Charlotte. Both teams are getting humongous pieces back that could easily sway the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

Digging deeper, another reason to pick these two teams is that both rank in the top five in the NBA in opponents’ scoring. Indiana is fourth and Charlotte is tied for fifth, and contrary to what you might read or however cliche it might be, defense still wins in this league.

However, I’m only going with one of those teams and that’s the Hornets. Walker is much more of a sure bet when he returns than George. Williams is playing at an extraordinary level and offense is tough for a Hornets’ team ranked 27th in scoring.

I’m not convinced George will be able to give the Pacers enough. His comeback is a good idea because the Pacers could be a viable threat with George in the postseason, but that’s a brutal injury to return from, not just physically, but mentally. I have more faith in what Walker can provide the Hornets.

My other choice is Miami. The Heat have the most talented backcourt in the race and the secondary pieces have emerged. Hassan Whiteside has become a dominant big man, at least in the Eastern Conference. Luol Deng has to have some of that All-Star magic somewhere.

Dragic is a borderline star. Can he carry a team? I think so. His motivation has to be astronomical now that he forced his way out of Phoenix, or Phoenix forced him out. Depends on what side you’re on in this Ross/Rachel debate.

Wade can still contribute at a high level. However, the three reasons I like the Heat over everyone else are: They are one of the teams the Hornets are tied for fifth with in opponents’ scoring, young, enthused role players and Spoelstra.

Tyler Johnson scored 26 points on Monday. He won’t do that a lot, but Michael Beasley, yes, Michael Beasley, was a good signing. Mario Chalmers is more suited to a bench role.

And, Spoelstra is a fantastic postseason coach. It’s easy to dismiss him as someone who thrived with LeBron James, but he’s more than that. He maximized what he got from players along the way. This Heat team looks like a fifth- grade CYO group compared to the Big Three days, but Spo will get the most from his guys and knows what it takes down the stretch.

There are plenty of game left to decide everything and this battle for the final two spots lacks the sex appeal of Oklahoma City trying to blow up the Western Conference race.

In fact, with these six teams a combined 46 games under .500, this race lacks the sex appeal of a shoe. Remember, the Hawks took the Pacers to seven games as the eighth seed last season. Anything is possible and with the likes of a Wade or George in the mix, these squads could be mildly dangerous in the postseason.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~


►   NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, March 03)


Final Score: Charlotte 104, LA Lakers 103

Al Jefferson had 21 points and 16 rebounds as the Charlotte Hornets held off the Los Angeles Lakers 104-103 on Tuesday night. Mo Williams posted 20 points and 13 assists, while Gerald Henderson added 21 points and five helpers for the Hornets, who have won two straight on the heels of a 1-6 stretch. Jeremy Lin tallied 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds off the bench and Carlos Boozer provided 15 points and 11 boards for Los Angeles, which has dropped nine of its last 12 contests.


Final Score: Cleveland 110, Boston 79

LeBron James scored 27 points with a full line and the Cleveland Cavaliers dismantled the Boston Celtics 110-79 on Tuesday. James silenced his critics with a dominant performance just two days after missing two crucial free throws late in an overtime loss to the Rockets. James missed 20 field goals and shot 3-for-11 from the foul line in that loss, Cleveland’s second in a row. Kyrie Irving returned from a two-game absence and added 18 points for the Cavs, while Kevin Love and J.R. Smith gave 12 points apiece. The Cavaliers made all 14 of their free throws as a team.


Final Score: Sacramento 124, New York 86

Rudy Gay supplied 25 points with seven rebounds in the Sacramento Kings’ 124-86 rout of the New York Knicks on Tuesday night. DeMarcus Cousins returned to the Sacramento lineup after missing the previous two games with ankle and hip injuries to score 22 points and grab 10 rebounds in the win. Ben McLemore had 20 points and Derrick Williams added 17 for the Kings, who snapped a two-game losing streak in the opener of a franchise record-tying eight-game road trip. New York had a tough time on the offensive end throughout the night, shooting 36.6 percent for the game as no starter scored in double figures. Alexey Shved led the Knicks with 15 points, while Jason Smith and Shake Larkin each tallied 13 points off the bench.


Final Score: Atlanta 104, Houston 96

The short-handed Houston Rockets gave their best Atlanta Hawks impersonation for three quarters on Tuesday. The fourth quarter, however, showed just how valuable James Harden really is. The Hawks rallied from 15 points down over the final 10 minutes and beat the Rockets, 104-96, to earn their fifth straight win and clinch the NBA’s first playoff berth. Jeff Teague scored 25 points, Paul Millsap finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points, including the go-ahead jumper down the stretch for the victors.


Final Score: Chicago 97, Washington 92

A pair of hustle plays led to a Chicago Bulls win Tuesday night. It’s something they’ll have to rely on without two of their stars for the next month. Nikola Mirotic had 23 points and eight rebounds, Pau Gasol added 20 points and 10 rebounds and the Bulls held off the Washington Wizards for a 97-92 victory. With Chicago clinging to a 94-91 lead in the final minute, Aaron Brooks lost the ball while going up for a reverse, but Mirotic won the race for a loose ball along the sideline and drew a foul with 35.5 seconds remaining. He sunk 1-of-2 foul shots to extend the margin to four and Otto Porter split a pair at the other end to again cut the deficit to three. The Wizards elected to play the Bulls’ ensuing offensive possession out and Tony Snell was off the mark on a right wing 3- pointer, but Gasol got position for an offensive rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to seal the triumph with 8.5 ticks on the clock. The Bulls announced Monday that All-Star guard Jimmy Butler could miss 3-to-6 weeks with injuries to his left elbow suffered during Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The team, of course, was already dealing with the loss of former MVP Derrick Rose, who will miss up to six weeks after having surgery on Friday to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. Brooks netted 22 points to go with eight assists and Joakim Noah supplied 14 points and 12 boards for the Bulls, who have won four of their last six games. John Wall tallied 21 points and 11 assists to lead free-falling Washington, which has dropped seven of its last eight contests.


Final Score: Utah 93, Memphis 82

Rudy Gobert scored 15 points and set a career high with 24 rebounds as the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 93-82 on Tuesday. Gobert pulled down 18 defensive rebounds in Utah’s third straight win—the first time it has done so this season. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors each scored 21 points and Rodney Hood added 13 points off the bench in the win. Courtney Lee led Memphis with 18 points, Marc Gasol had 17 points with eight rebounds and Jordan Adams set a career high with 13 points.


Final Score: Denver 106, Milwaukee 95

Danilo Gallinari posted a season-high 26 points to lead the Denver Nuggets in a 106-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night in Melvin Hunt’s interim debut with the team. The Nuggets fired head coach Brian Shaw earlier in the day, citing that he ran out of time to turn the organization around. Shaw, who went 56-85 in Denver, had his trouble over his tenure with the Nuggets and even admitted earlier this season that he needed coaching books to help him with ways to handle the players. Ty Lawson finished with 16 points and 10 assists for Denver, which snapped a 10-game losing streak at home—including a six-game skid overall. Kenneth Faried netted 14 points with 14 rebounds in the win. Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 21 points, Khris Middleton had 20 points with seven rebounds and six assists, and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 points with 11 rebounds. Milwaukee has lost three straight games.


►   Nuggets fire Shaw

The Denver Nuggets have fired head coach Brian Shaw.

Denver enters play on Tuesday with a 20-39 record this season, Shaw’s second at the helm. Overall, he was 56-85 as the team’s head coach.

“I want to sincerely thank Brian for his time with our organization,“ said Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly. “You won’t find a better guy than Brian and he is one of the brightest basketball minds I’ve ever been around. Unfortunately things didn’t go as we hoped, but we know with his basketball acumen that he has a very bright future ahead of him.“

Nuggets president Josh Kroenke added that Shaw just ran out of time to turn things around.

“This season our management staff has remained patient and supportive as decisions of this nature are never taken lightly,“ Kroenke said. “Patience is encouraged, as long as the organization continues to show progress toward a greater goal.

“However, competing for championships is our goal, and therefore we decided to make this decision now and look forward to conducting an extensive head coaching search upon the season’s conclusion. This has been a trying season for all of us, and we appreciate Nuggets fans continued faith and patience as we build our proud organization back to the NBA’s elite.“

Melvin Hunt has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Hunt was in his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Nuggets. He came to Denver after spending five years as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2005-2010). Prior to that he spent one season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers and five seasons in various capacities with the Houston Rockets.


►   Mavs sign James for remainder of season

The Dallas Mavericks signed center Bernard James for the remainder of the season on Tuesday.

James was originally signed to his first of two 10-day contracts on February 11.

Since joining the Mavericks, he has averaged 4.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in five games (two starts).


►   Heat sign Walker to second 10-day contract

The Miami Heat signed forward Henry Walker to a second 10-day contract on Tuesday.

Walker, who was originally signed to a 10-day contract by the Heat on February 21, has appeared in five games with one start, averaging 9.4 points and 3.2 rebounds.

Walker has appeared in 17 games for the Heat’s NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, this season, averaging 15.1 points and 3.9 rebounds.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Ventura among 8 players signed by Royals

The Kansas City Royals agreed to contracts for the 2015 season with Yordano Ventura and seven other players on Tuesday.

Ventura, 23, was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts and one relief appearance as a rookie with the Royals in 2014. He made four postseason starts, earning the win in Game 6 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

Outfielders Reymond Fuentes, Terrance Gore and Paulo Orlando, infielders Christian Colon and Orlando Calixte, catcher Francisco Pena and pitcher Jandel Gustave were also signed, meaning every player on the 40-man roster have agreed to contracts for 2015.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Top Shelf: Rangers go all in

The 2014-15 edition of the NHL trade deadline was short on dramatic moves designed to take a shot at the big prize.

One exception, however, involved the New York Rangers, a team that is left wanting more after its trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring.

On Sunday afternoon, about 24 hours shy of the deadline, Rangers general manager Glen Sather gave up a boatload to acquire Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes. In theory, the move gives New York a missing ingredient, a dynamic offensive defenseman.

In order to land Yandle, who was finally dealt after being dangled as trade bait by the Coyotes for years, the Rangers surrendered a sizeable chunk of future assets, but it’s clear Sather is more focused on the next few months rather than the next several years.

New York sent the Coyotes defenseman John Moore, who played in 21 games for the Blueshirts during last spring’s playoffs, Anthony Duclair, a blue-chip forward prospect, as well as two draft picks—a 2016 first-rounder and a second-round selection at the upcoming draft.

In return, the Rangers received Yandle, defenseman Chris Summers, a 27-year- old who has played in only 64 NHL games, and a fourth-round pick in 2016. Obviously for Sather, it was all about acquiring Yandle, a player with enough offensive upside to make people look past his flaws in the defensive end.

One could argue New York didn’t need to do much at all in order to get back to the Cup Finals in 2015, but it’s obvious Sather doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. His team has weathered the recent storm without franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been sidelined since early February with a vascular issue in his throat and neck but is due back in time for the postseason. The club also could have an eye on a Western Conference field that is strong but maybe not unbeatable as was believed to be the case just a few months back.

Although the defending Eastern Conference champions are tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division and flying high with a 9-1-1 mark over the last 11 games despite playing without the services of Lundqvist, the GM felt the club was missing a certain component in order to reach the top of the mountain. If he’s right, it could make the Rangers the team to beat in the East and possibly the entire NHL.

The Rangers had a handful of well-rounded blueliners before Yandle entered the picture, but the newcomer brings a puck-moving prowess that even guys like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal sit back and envy. Yandle won’t be asked to equal those defensemen in terms of minutes and shut-down responsibilities. Instead, he’ll be tasked with improving the club’s transition game and finding better ways to get the disc up ice to New York’s stable of speedy forwards.

There also is the memory of last spring’s struggles with the man advantage. The Rangers made it to the Cup Finals to face Los Angeles in spite of their power-play unit, hitting on just 12.6% of their opportunities. The Kings, meanwhile, were at 23.5% for the postseason and potted seven more power-play markers in the playoffs than New York.

Sather initially thought he addressed this problem by signing veteran Dan Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract last summer, but the 38-year-old blueliner has largely been a disappointment. Unlike Boyle, Yandle has never won a Stanley Cup and only has a fraction of Boyle’s playoff experience, but the ex-Coyote is a decade younger and hungry to prove he can be part of a winner.

Yandle was part of a victory in his Rangers debut Monday evening - a 4-1 triumph over the NHL-leading Nashville Predators. The new guy logged 19 minutes, 41 seconds of ice time and was active in the offensive zone, putting three shots on goal. Yandle did add another minus to his season stats, bringing his total to minus-33, a number that can be thrown out the window now that he’s left the dysfunctional Coyotes behind.

And it’s OK if Yandle continues to struggle on defense because he wasn’t brought in to be a shut-down guy. He was called upon to play that role in Arizona because of serious depth issues, but on Broadway there are plenty of other options who can limit the opposition’s scoring chances.

Yandle’s job is to make the Rangers even more dangerous on offense. They already possess a potent scoring attack, ranking second in the league with 3.11 goals per game, but offense has a funny way of drying up come playoff time. Yandle gives Sather’s head coach Alain Vigneault one more weapon just in case the scoring slows down when it matters most.

Sather knows he is giving up a great deal for what amounts to a one- dimensional player, but he did his homework on Yandle and believes he will be worth the cost.

“It’s a calculated risk whenever you do a deal,“ Sather said. “But this was the kind of player I wanted, the kind of player I was watching for a long time.“

Of course, the only way he’ll be worth it is if the Rangers can claim the Cup for their own. Barring a contract extension with his new club, Yandle has through the 2015-16 season to prove Sather’s gamble with the future was the right kind of risk.  ~~  Dan Di Sciullo ~~

►   NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, March 03)


Final Score: New Jersey 3, Nashville 1

Cory Schneider stopped 33 shots to lead the New Jersey Devils in a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas and Mike Cammalleri each scored a goal for the Devils, who have won their past two. Mike Fisher had the only goal of the game for the Predators, who have lost four straight in regulation. Carter Hutton allowed two goals on 23 shots in the loss.


Final Score: Calgary 3, Philadelphia 2 (OT)

Jiri Hudler’s marker at 1:23 of overtime sent Calgary past Philadelphia by a 3-2 count on Tuesday. Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund also tallied for the Flames, who improved to 9-3 in the extra session this season. Karri Ramo stood tall with 35-saves. Sean Couturier and Mark Streit scored for the Flyers, who have dropped three of their last four. Steve Mason stopped 23 pucks in defeat.


Final Score: Washington 5, Columbus 3

Alex Ovechkin scored twice and the Washington Capitals held off the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 5-3 win on Tuesday. Eric Fehr, Tom Wilson and Marcus Johansson also lit the lamp, Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Chimera each tallied two assists and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for the Capitals, who have won two straight games. Scott Hartnell posted two goals and an assist and David Savard also scored in the Blue Jackets’ seventh straight loss. Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 32 shots in his return to the ice after missing 17 games with a groin injury.


Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Buffalo 0

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves for his first career shutout as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Tuesday. Vasilevskiy got the start after Ben Bishop suffered an injury in practice earlier in the day. Bishop was hit in the midsection with a puck about 10 minutes into practice and stayed down for a few moments before leaving the ice to see a trainer. Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning. Defenseman Braydon Coburn played his first game in a Tampa Bay uniform after being acquired from Philadelphia in the early hours of Monday. Anders Lindback stopped 32-of-35 shots in his first appearance for Buffalo since being acquired last month from Dallas. The Sabres, the worst team in the NHL with only 43 points, held a fire sale at Monday’s trade deadline. Buffalo shipped away forwards Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn and also dealt goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Buffalo received mostly prospects and draft picks in return, but got goaltender Chad Johnson in the Neuvirth deal.


Final Score: Toronto 3, Florida 2

The Toronto Maple Leafs scored two goals in the third period for a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, snapping a franchise-worst 16-game road losing streak. The Panthers? They spent part of the night wondering who their goaltender was going to be. It nearly was a coach. Roberto Luongo solved the problem, changing from street clothes back into his uniform to finish the third period for the injured Al Montoya. Luongo, who took a shot off his right shoulder late in the first period and didn’t return for the second, was forced back into duty after Montoya was hurt early in the third. Confusion reigned as Montoya skated off to the locker room, then returned twice in the third period. Amid the hubbub, Panthers goaltending coach Rob Tallas put on a uniform and took a seat on the bench under NHL Rule 5.3, which allows teams to dress any eligible player in a goaltender emergency. Nazem Kadri and Peter Holland both scored against Montoya in the first 5:28 of the third to give the Maple Leafs the lead. Tyler Bozak also found the back of the net for Toronto, which won on the road for the first time since Dec. 31 in Boston. Bernier finished with 40 saves. Brandon Pirri and Aaron Ekblad scored for the Panthers, who entered the game two points shy of Boston for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They had a two-game winning streak snapped, falling to 2-2 on a seven-game homestand. Luongo made 19 saves and Montoya gave up three goals on 15 shots.


Final Score: Minnesota 3, Ottawa 2 (SO)

Charlie Coyle netted the shootout winner and Minnesota kept its recent run of success alive with a 3-2 decision over Ottawa at XCel Energy Center. Matt Dumba tallied twice in regulation for the Wild, who have won six of their last seven contests and improved to 14-2-1 since late January. Devan Dubnyk made a franchise record 21st consecutive start. The reigning NHL player of the month turned aside 31 shots for the win. Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan scored for the Senators, who picked up a point for the sixth straight game but saw their five-game win streak halted. Andrew Hammond made 36 saves for the visitors.


Final Score: Dallas 3, NY Islanders 2 (OT)

Cody Eakin scored the deciding marker 2:18 into overtime as the Dallas Stars snapped a six-game skid and overcame some late adversity for a 3-2 win on Tuesday. The Islanders pulled Jaroslav Halak with over a minute to play and it paid off as Anders Lee took a failed clear and fired a shot on net from the left circle. His shot went off Stars defenseman Jordie Benn’s skate and into the net with 1.7 seconds showing on the clock. Dallas recovered during the extra session as Eakin finished off a 2-on-1 by snapping Jamie Benn’s feed past Halak for the game- winning goal. Brett Ritchie and Vernon Fiddler also lit the lamp and Kari Lehtonen made 35 saves in the Stars’ first overtime win at home since Feb. 26, 2012. Josh Bailey provided New York’s other goal, while Halak stopped 32-of-35 shots in defeat.


Final Score: Anaheim 4, Arizona 1

Andrew Cogliano scored twice and Jakob Silfverberg added a goal and two assists as Anaheim subdued Arizona by a 4-1 count on Tuesday. Ryan Kesler added the other marker for the Ducks, who have won three in a row and six of seven. Frederik Andersen backed up that effort with 29 saves. Tobias Rieder tallied for the Coyotes, whose first game since dealing defenseman Keith Yandle to the Rangers resulted in their 10th consecutive loss. Mike Smith stopped 31 shots.


Final Score: Los Angeles 5, Edmonton 2

Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis each tallied a goal and two assists as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 on Tuesday. Jeff Carter provided a short-handed marker, Matt Greene also scored and Jonathan Quick made 21 saves for the Kings, who ended a three-game skid. Luke Gazdic and Teddy Purcell each lit the lamp and Ben Scrivens allowed all five goals on 29 shots for Edmonton, which has lost four of its last five games.


Final Score: San Jose 6, Vancouver 2

Matt Nieto posted two goals and an assist to lead the San Jose Sharks in a 6-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson all scored for the Sharks, who have won their past two. Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots in the win. Henrik Sedin posted two goals and Daniel Sedin assisted on both of them for the Canucks, who had won three of four coming into the game. Jacob Markstrom’s first start of the year was short-lived as he gave up three goals on four shots in just under eight minutes of work. Eddie Lack stopped 23-of-24 shots in relief.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Wozniacki wins Kuala Lumpur opener

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki was an easy first-round winner Tuesday at the Malaysian Open tennis event.

The 2014 U.S. Open runner-up and former world No. 1 Danish star waltzed past Chinese qualifier Wang Yafan 6-3, 6-1 in 69 minutes on the indoor hardcourts at Bukit Resort.

Wozniacki will face another Chinese player, Lin Zhu, in the second round.

Upsets came when Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru tackled second-seeded former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki, of Germany, 6-4, 7-5 and wild card Su-Wei Hsieh upended No. 3 seed Casey Dellacqua, of Australia, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Taipei’s Hsieh titled here in 2012.

Three other seeds joined Wozniacki in the round of 16, as No. 4 Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova handled Turkey’s Cagla Buyukakcay 7-5, 6-4, No. 5 Czech Klara Koukalova drilled Austrian Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-1, 6-3 and No. 8 German Julia Goerges got past Russian Alla Kudryavtseva 6-1, 7-6 (7-2).

Additional wins came for the aforementioned Zhu, Japan’s Misa Eguchi and German Carina Witthoeft.

This week’s champion will collect $43,000.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Harrington wins the Honda Classic in a playoff

Whether he was piling up majors or playing so poorly that he lost his PGA Tour card, Padraig Harrington never wavered from one goal in golf. Just get him anywhere near the lead with nine holes to play, and he would happily take his chances.

His caddie, Ronan Flood, reminded him of that Monday morning in the Honda Classic when Harrington was four shots behind at the turn.

“He said, ‘Look, would you have taken this on Thursday?’ And I said, ‘Yes, that’s what you want,‘” Harrington said. “You want to be in contention with nine holes to go, because anything can happen coming down the stretch. And it did.”

Not even Harrington could have written the script to his playoff victory at rain-soaked PGA National.

He ran off four straight birdies on the back nine to take the lead. He gave it back with a 5-iron into the water for double bogey on the par-3 17th. He made a 15-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. And given a shot at redemption, he hit 5-iron to 3 feet on the 17th to win on the second playoff hole when 21-year-old rookie Daniel Berger hit into the water and made double bogey.

Ten years after winning the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour victory, Harrington won it again. It was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills for back-to-back majors.

Harrington lost his card last year and needed a sponsor’s exemption to get in the Honda Classic. Now he’s eligible for the Masters, The Players Championship and at least two World Golf Championships. He had fallen to No. 297 in the world. The 20th win of his career moved him to No. 82.

None of that mattered to him as he sat next to the trophy, Irish eyes smiling bright as ever.

“It’s not about what it means to my career or what it means going forward,” he said. “You don’t win that often. When you win, make sure you enjoy it.”

Harrington’s birdie on the 18th was the most meaningful putt he has holed since one from the same distance for par on the 18th at Oakland Hills. It gave him an even-par 70 and the second chance he needed in a playoff over Berger, the hometown rookie who finished birdie-birdie for a 6-under 64.

They finished at 6-under 274, the survivors of a day in which five players had a share of the lead at some point, and four of them found water at the worst time.

“It’s one of those golf courses where you get yourself in contention, it is a little bit uncomfortable,” Harrington said. “But that’s the way it is.”

That’s how it was for Ian Poulter.

He was staked to a three-shot lead going into the final round, which began Sunday afternoon because of rain delays. Poulter hit five shots into the water. One of them erased a three-shot lead. Another erased a two-shot lead. And when he hit two into the water on the 14th hole for triple bogey, he was done. Poulter finished birdie-birdie for a 75 to miss the playoff by one shot.

“It’s just bitterly disappointing to put myself in the position I have, to play as well as I’ve played … and a couple of loose shots has cost me this tournament,” Poulter said. “It’s a shame to hand tournaments away. I’ve handed one away this week.”

That’s how it was for Patrick Reed.

He matched birdies with Harrington on the 14th hole and they were tied at 7 under when Reed hit his tee shot into the water and made double bogey. He bogeyed the next two holes, shot 73 and finished three shots behind.

“I had three holes that kind of bit me,” he said.

And ultimately, that’s how it was for Berger. He had a 15-foot birdie putt to win on the 18th in a playoff and narrowly missed. Then, he watched Harrington hit 5-iron to within 3 feet on the 17th on the next playoff hole.

“He’s a great player, and that shot on 17 was kind of a dagger in the heart,” Berger said.

Paul Casey, who lost in a playoff at Riviera last week, was tied for the lead until a bogey on the 14th hole. He never caught up, missing a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have got him into another playoff. He closed with a 68.

Casey tied for third with Russell Knox (68) and moved to No. 45, getting him into the World Golf Championship at Doral.

Phil Mickelson was four shots behind when the final round resumed Monday morning. He missed a 10-foot par putt at No. 9, didn’t make a birdie and shot 73 to tie for 17th.

Harrington was five shots behind when he pulled his tee shot at No. 11, so far left it was on a muddied patch of grass that had been trampled by the gallery. He hit 4-iron at the right flag, over the water, to 15 feet for a birdie and a three-shot swing when Poulter hit into the water for double bogey.

That was the start of four straight birdies. That one shot might explain one of the more complex minds in golf. In the lead with a good lie, he sees trouble. From behind and in trouble, he only sees opportunity.

“I’m not going to win the tournament unless I take it on,” he said.

With a one-shot lead on the 17th hole in regulation, he tried not to make a mistake and hit in the water. In a playoff on the 17th, he fired at the flag.

“Believe it or not,” he said with a smile, “when I get in contention I can still hit the shots.”


►   Olsen’s claims about Woods refuted, retracted

Dan Olsen, a onetime PGA Tour member, stated in a radio interview on Friday that Tiger Woods is serving a one-month suspension and is not injured. Olsen backtracked on that statement on Monday.

In an interview with 730 AM The Game in Lansing, Michigan, Olsen stated that he heard from a “credible source” that Woods had been suspended for one month for a failed drug test. Olsen said his source was an exempt tour player.

Olsen stated, “It’s not testosterone, but it’s something else. I think when it’s all said and done, he’s gonna surpass Lance Armstrong with infamy.“

Later in the interview, Olsen mentioned that Woods uses a “cheater ball.“

Both of those statements were denied on Monday.

“These claims are absolutely, unequivocally and completely false,“ said Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, in a statement. “They are unsourced, unverified and completely ridiculous. The PGA Tour has confirmed that there is no truth to these claims.“

“There is no truth whatsoever to these claims. We categorically deny these allegations,“ said Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour.

Woods’ longtime sponsor, Nike, also made a statement.

“Every ball Tiger has put in competitive play from Nike has been thoroughly tested and approved by the USGA and R&A in accordance with their governing rules,“ the company stated.

After Olsen’s claims were refuted, Olsen backtracked on his statements in a Monday interview.

“Everything I said on that radio interview was only my opinion and not based on any firsthand knowledge or facts,“ Olsen told ESPN.com. “I want to make a full retraction to everything I said for the entire radio interview, and I apologize to Tiger, Nike, Phil (Mickelson), (PGA Tour commissioner) Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour.“

Olsen, 48, spent one full year on the PGA Tour in 2004, with his best finish being a tie for 12th at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He also spent two full seasons on the Web.com Tour, where his best finish was a tie for third at the Knoxville Open in 2005.


►   This Week in Golf—March 05-08

PGA/EUROPEAN TOUR - WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP-CADILLAC CHAMPIONSHIP, Trump National Doral, Miami, Florida - Following a Monday finish for The Honda Classic, the top-50 players in the world rankings move to Doral this week for the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

This event will mark the first tournament since the 2012 PGA Championship that all of the top-50 will be playing the same event.

Patrick Reed dropped four strokes in a three-hole span on the back nine at PGA National on Monday to cost himself the win, or at least a spot in the playoff at the Honda Classic.

Reed returns to Doral to defend his title. He closed with an even-par 72 last year and it was enough to hold off Jamie Donaldson (70) and Bubba Watson (68). It was Reed’s second win in seven weeks, and afterward declared himself one of the top-5 players in the world.

Reed has yet to reach that lofty status, but he did pick up his fourth PGA Tour win earlier this year at Kapalua.

The injured Tiger Woods will miss the event. It is just the second time in his career that he didn’t qualify for a World Golf Championship event.

Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds, while NBC will also have coverage over the weekend.


PGA TOUR

PUERTO RICO OPEN, Trump International (Puerto Rico), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico - While the best players in the world are at Doral, the rest of the PGA Tour will tee it up at the Puerto Rico Open.

Chesson Hadley picked up his first PGA Tour title at this event last year. Hadley birdied the final two holes to beat Danny Lee by two strokes. Hadley was the second straight and fourth winner in the last seven years that was a first-time champion.

Hadley had opened an early lead with three birdies in the first five holes, but he needed those late birdies. Lee, a former U.S. Amateur winner, birdied three of the last four holes to keep the pressure on Hadley.

With those two late birdies, Hadley set a new tournament scoring record with his total of 267. Scott Brown set the old mark of 268 in 2013.

Jarrod Lyle will be in the field as he makes his fifth PGA Tour start since beating cancer for a second time. Along with Hadley and Lyle, the field will have seven former major winners, including John Daly, David Duval, David Toms and Lee Janzen, who picked up his first Champions Tour victory three weeks ago at the ACE Group Classic.

Golf Channel will have tape-delayed coverage of all four rounds.

The PGA Tour will be in Palm Harbor, Florida next week for the Valspar Championship, where John Senden will defend his title.


EUROPEAN TOUR

AFIRCA OPEN, East London Golf Club, East London, South Africa - The European Tour remains in South Africa this week with the Africa Open. Last year, Thomas Aiken and Oliver Fisher were among several players to fire four rounds in the 60s.

Aiken and Fisher finished at 20-under-par 264. Aiken then birdied the first extra hole to beat Fisher and win for the third time on the European Tour. However, Aiken will not be on hand to defend his title as he is competing at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Andy Sullivan won the Joburg Open last week. That was his second victory in eight weeks on the European Tour. He also won the South African Open, which was the first event of 2015.

Fisher and Sullivan will be joined in the field by the likes of former Open Champion Darren Clarke and George Coetzee as well as past champions Shaun Norris and Darren Fichardt.

Golf Channel will have coverage off all four rounds.

The European Tour shifts to Waterkloof, South Africa next week for the Tshwane Open, where Ross Fisher won by three strokes last year.


LPGA TOUR

HSBC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONS, Sentosa Golf Club (Serapong Course), Singapore - The LPGA heads to Singapore for the HSBC Champions, where Paula Creamer had the shot of the year last year.

Creamer closed with a 3-under 69 to end alongside Azahara Munoz (70) at 10- under 278. They returned to the 18th for the playoff. Both players missed short birdie putts on the first extra hole.

They headed back to the 18th again. Creamer reached the green in two after Munoz laid up. Munoz played her third to nine feet, but never hit the putt. Creamer poured in a long, big-breaking putt for eagle and her first win since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.

Karrie Webb, the 2011 winner, was three strokes ahead with six holes to go, but she bogeyed three of the last six holes to fall from the lead.

The field this week includes 19 of the top-20 players in the world.

Golf Channel will have early morning coverage of all four rounds.

The LPGA Tour takes next week off then returns to action in Arizona with the JTBC Founders Cup, where Webb fired a 9-under 63 in the final round to rally past Stacy Lewis, Amy Yang and Munoz.


WEB.COM

CARTAGENA DE INDIAS AT KARIBANA CHAMPIONSHIP, TPC Cartagena, Cartagena, Colombia - After a month off, the Web.com Tour returns to action with a new event, the Cartagena de Indias at Karibana Championship.

This will be the second straight event in Colombia for the Web.com Tour. It is the third of five consecutive events outside the United States to start the season.

The winners of the first two events - Mathew Goggin (Panama Claro Championship) and Patrick Rodgers (Colombia Championship) - are both in the field this week.

There is no television coverage this week.

The Web.com Tour heads to Sao Paulo next week for the Brasil Champions, where Jon Curran rolled to a 4-shot win with a tournament record score of 25-under- par 259 last year.


►   WGC-Match Play to move to Austin in 2016

The International Federation of PGA Tours announced on Tuesday that the World Golf Championships-Match Play event will be moved to Austin, Texas, in 2016.

This year, the WGC-Cadillac Match Play will be contested at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from April 29-May 03. Next year, the tournament will have a new title sponsor in Dell, which is based in the Greater Austin Area. The championship will be renamed the WGC-Dell Match Play.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Dell as a sponsor of the World Golf Championships and, beginning in 2016, as the new title sponsor of the Match Play,“ PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “The Match Play has a tremendous future with Dell as the incoming title sponsor, the event’s move to Austin and the new round-robin format that is being introduced this year.“

This is the first time a tour-sanctioned event will be played in Austin since 2003-09 on the Champions Tour. The decision on a host course has yet to be made, but an announcement is expected in the near future.

In 2016, the WGC-Dell Match Play is scheduled to be played the week of March 21-27. The new sponsorship will run through 2019.

Played last season in Arizona as the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the tournament was won by Jason Day, who defeated Victor Dubuisson 1-up in 23 holes.


►   Golf Tidbits: Tinkering never ends for Harrington

The golf game is a fickle one and the golf swing is the same. Like fingerprints, no two players have the same swing.

Padraig Harrington has always tinkered with his swing. Those changes have hurt him, especially over the last five years.

“I grew up with no practice range, so that’s why I’ve always been fascinated, obsessed with trying to swing the club and hit it better,“ Harrington said on Monday after winning The Honda Classic.

The Irishman rallied from five strokes off the pace to win for the first time since the 2008 PGA Championship. The victory came nearly five years to the day since his last top-three finish.

Ever in search of it, Harrington constantly tries to find the perfect swing. He also went through a battle with the yips.

“I was pretty keen on my own form, but I wasn’t delivering. Since 2012, I’ve played well, but putted very badly. I had the yips. It was tough after that,“ Harrington admitted. “But last week, I kind of found something. It’s a mental game, which is what’s been going wrong. I stuck with that this week and it worked half the time.“

Dating to the start of the 2011 season, Harrington had made 50 cuts in 77 starts. In that span, Harrington had only nine top-10 finishes. His best PGA Tour finish in that stretch was a tie for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open.

His play started to turn around late last year when he won an event in Indonesia by two strokes.

“I won in Asia (in December). Believe it or not, when I get in contention, I can hit the shots,“ Harrington explained. “The problem has been the start of the week, middle-of-the-round shots, easy shots, I’ve just not hit them. When I’ve got tough shots, I can hit them.“

His results bare that out. He played all four rounds in just two of his first eight starts in the 2014-15 season. He entered last week ranked 76th in first- round scoring average, but tied for 201st in the second round and tied for 205th in the third round.

After missing four straight cuts, Harrington finally played all four rounds at the Northern Trust Open.

Harrington carried the little momentum gained from his finish at Riviera to The Honda Classic. He was 7-under par through two rounds and had his first 36- hole lead on the PGA Tour since 2010.

He waned a little in the third round, which he played in its entirety on Sunday after heavy rain and strong wind halted action on Saturday. As darkness neared Sunday evening, Harrington was struggling and had dropped three strokes in his first six holes of his final round.

Play was finally called for the day, and that was the reprieve Harrington needed. He practiced putting in the dark and “found” something to use on Monday.

As play resumed, Harrington opened with a couple pars and trailed playing partner and leader Ian Poulter by five strokes with 10 holes to play.

Harrington caught fire with four straight birdies on the back nine, while Pouter collapsed. Harrington needed one last birdie at the 18th to get into a playoff after he found water at 17 and walked off with a double-bogey.

He came through with a clutch 15-foot birdie putt to force the playoff with Daniel Berger.

“One of the things that helped change my putting around was if I had a 10-foot putt to win on the 18th green, actually a 15-footer as it turned out, I wouldn’t want anybody else to putt it,“ Harrington said. “So as much as I was struggling, I still would choose myself to read that putt and hit that putt. That gives me confidence.“

The playoff pitted Harrington, a three-time major champion and owner of 30 worldwide titles, against Berger, who was playing his 12th PGA Tour event. Harrington stuffed his tee shot inside five feet on the 17th before Berger folded as he found water with his tee ball.

The tinkering has hurt his game, but there is no way Harrington will stop. That is what helped him win all those titles.


SULLIVAN OFF TO FAST START

The search always goes on for the next breakout star. Andy Sullivan has entered that category with his hot start on the European Tour.

After missing the cut in his first start of the season in December, Sullivan has three top-five finishes in six starts, including two wins, in 2015.

Sullivan isn’t new on the scene, as he enters his fourth season on the European Tour. He posted five top-10s last season, including a runner-up finish at the Trophee Hassan II.

That stood as his best tour finish until he won the South African Open. After shooting even-par in the first round last week at the Joburg Open, Sullivan went 18-under par over the final three rounds to win by two strokes.

He remained in South Africa this week and will try for his third win of the season.

Sullivan would have a big leg up toward making his first Ryder Cup team, but the European points have not yet started to accumulate.

That is the only downside to his game at this point.


MINI-TIDBITS

* James Hahn and Padraig Harrington have won the last two PGA Tour events. At the start of those tournaments, both were ranked 297th in the world rankings. Steve Webster is No. 297 this week. Maybe he can continue the trend. If so, he’ll do it at the European Tour’s Africa Open.

* Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson may continue to grab attention on the LPGA Tour, but world No. 1 Lydia Ko should be getting more press. The 17-year-old claimed her 10th professional title on Sunday, giving her one more win than Wie and Thompson combined.    ~~  Kevin Currie ~~



The Gilmer Free Press

►   NASCAR falls flat in follow-up to Daytona 500

NASCAR did not have its finest weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the follow-up to the Daytona 500 began with the theft of a race car and a parked SUV rolling into Denny Hamlin’s motorhome.

Qualifying was a debacle for the second week in a row, rain delayed the start of Sunday’s race and Jeff Gordon once again managed to crash into a concrete wall that lacked an energy-absorbing barrier.

By the time Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag to close a cold and wet weekend, everyone was ready to get out of Atlanta.

It was a momentum-killing weekend for NASCAR, which had staged a strong season-opener one week earlier only to fall flat at one of the more historic tracks on the circuit.

Things went awry early when a trailer carrying the Team XTREME race car for Travis Kvapil was stolen from a motel parking lot early Friday morning.

While the team scrambled to figure out what it would do — with no car, Kvapil was forced to withdrawal from the race — Hamlin received a jolt when his motorhome was struck by a rolling SUV that had mistakenly been left in gear.

After those two off-track distractions were dealt with, attention turned toward the debut of the 2015 rules package. Only that was marred by the second embarrassing qualifying session in as many weeks.

Four series champions were among the 13 drivers who didn’t even get to make a qualifying attempt because their cars didn’t pass inspection before the session began Friday afternoon.

Among those stuck in the inspection bay were Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.

Gordon, who needed two attempts to get his car through inspection, took the series to task after he failed to make a qualifying attempt in the debut race for new sponsor 3M.

“When you have this many teams having issues going through, there’s something wrong with this system or something wrong with the amount of time they’re allotted to get through,” he said. “There’s no way with this many good cars and talented people that they can’t figure out how to get these cars through inspection.

“I’m embarrassed for our series.”

It remains to be seen if the problem was that NASCAR, which a year ago dramatically reduced its team of officials as it streamlined its processes and began to use more technology and less human capital, didn’t have enough inspectors on site and didn’t allot enough time to clear 47 cars.

Sprint Cup director Richard Buck indicated the issue was with the way teams set up the cars in their first race with a new rules package.

“They’re pushing the limits,” Buck said. “That’s their job to get every bit they can get through (inspection). It’s our job that everyone gets a fair opportunity to get through there.”

Whatever the reasoning is for all those cars failing to make it on the track, it has to be fixed before this weekend’s race at Las Vegas. NASCAR can’t afford a third straight week of a champion being publicly “embarrassed” of the series.

But that didn’t even end up being Gordon’s biggest concern.

A week after Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot when he crashed into a concrete wall at Daytona, Gordon also managed to hit a wall that lacked a SAFER barrier.

Busch’s accident has spurred NASCAR and most of the racetracks to re-evaluate their safety standards, and Atlanta took steps to protect a large stretch that lacked soft walls.

If anyone is going to find an unprotected spot, though, it’s Gordon — he hit a concrete section at Las Vegas several years ago that forced the track to install a SAFER barrier there before NASCAR returned.

Gordon was visibly angry about his hit Sunday, as were many fans, who are as frustrated as the drivers are over a seemingly slow pace to get the barriers in enough spots at every track. NASCAR and its racetracks deserve credit for a sense of urgency toward addressing the issue, but it’s unsettling to see drivers continuing to find concrete walls.

Toss in the cold weather, it was 43 degrees when the green flag waved under low, thick clouds, and the decision to move Atlanta’s race date to the second weekend of the year seemed quizzical.

The realignment helped Atlanta sister property Bristol Motor Speedway secure a better spring date, but came at the expense of a once-proud track that seems lost on the NASCAR calendar.

The crowds were small all weekend, and any chance of a decent race-day walk-up was ruined by rain that delayed Sunday’s race an hour.

NASCAR now heads west for a three-race swing that begins in Las Vegas and ends in Fontana, Calif.,

One can only hope that each event goes a lot smoother than last weekend.


►   Kurt Busch to follow guidelines toward NASCAR reinstatement

Kurt Busch has agreed to follow NASCAR’s recommended guidelines to be eligible for eventual reinstatement.

The 2004 champion was indefinitely suspended February 20 after a Delaware judge said he believed Busch likely committed an act of domestic violence against a former girlfriend and there was a “substantial likelihood” of him doing it again.

Busch lost two rounds of appeals for reinstatement before the season-opening Daytona 500 and has missed the first two races of the season. Regan Smith has replaced him in the No. 41 Chevrolet.

On Monday, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said Busch has “agreed to our terms and conditions that must be met before he is eligible for consideration for reinstatement of his NASCAR license.”

Stewart-Haas Racing, which on Monday said Smith would again drive the No. 41 this weekend at Las Vegas, said there is no timetable for Busch to meet NASCAR’s guidelines.

“Kurt’s willingness to embrace the conditions set forth by NASCAR is a positive step that we support,” SHR said in a statement.

The specific guidelines have not been disclosed, but Higdon said an unidentified NASCAR consultant helped create them. Higdon added that Busch would need to meet the requirements “to the satisfaction of both NASCAR and the expert.

“The expert administering the reinstatement can come back with a recommendation of return, but Kurt still must satisfy NASCAR’s expectations, as well,” he said.

NASCAR tailors its reinstatement programs to each individual and the offense. AJ Allmendinger, for example, had to complete a program overseen by Dr. David Black, who runs NASCAR’s drug-testing unit. Alllmendinger was suspended for failing a random drug test and eventually reinstated.

Jeremy Clements, who was suspended in 2013 for an inappropriate comment, was reinstated after completing a NASCAR-authorized sensitivity training program. The program was administered by sports sociologist Richard Lapchick and his staff at the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

Higdon said a domestic violence expert will oversee Busch’s program, and NASCAR will not be part of the process.

Unrelated to the guidelines for NASCAR reinstatement are conditions placed on Busch by Family Court Commissioner David Jones, who granted a no-contact order for ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Jones wrote in his opinion that he believe believes there’s real possibility Busch will lash out again and has a propensity to lose control in response to disappointing or frustrating situations involving racing.

Jones ordered Busch to be evaluated to see if there is a “treatable mental health condition.” He also said Busch must follow any suggested treatment plans.

Busch is appealing Jones’ ruling.


►   Alonso to miss Australian GP

Fernando Alonso will not compete in the Formula one season-opening Australian Grand Prix after suffering a concussion during an accident in testing last month in Spain.

Alonso, a two-time F1 world champion, spent three days in a Barcelona hospital following his February 22 crash at Circuit de Catalunya.

McLaren issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm Alonso’s absence in the March 15 Australian GP. The team said that his doctors recommended “he should seek to limit as far as is possible any environmental risk factors that could potentially result in his sustaining another concussion so soon after his previous one, so as to minimize the chances of second impact syndrome, as is normal medical procedure when treating athletes after concussions.“

McLaren noted that Alonso’s doctors find him “asymptomatic of any medical issue” and “see no evidence whatsoever of any injury.“ Doctors also describe him as “entirely healthy from neurological and cardiac perspectives alike.“

Kevin Magnussen, the test and reserve driver for McLaren, will fill in for Alonso in the Australian GP. Magnussen competed in 19 grand prix for the team last year. He finished second in his F1 debut in Australia.

Alonso is expected to return to racing for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which is scheduled for the last weekend in March.

“Fernando’s doctors acknowledge that he feels fit and well, and that he regards himself as ready to race, and, that being the case, they are comfortable with the fact that he has already recommenced physical training, with a view to preparing for a return to the cockpit of his McLaren-Honda car for the Malaysian Grand Prix meeting on March 27th, 28th and 29th,“ McLaren said in its statement.

Alonso has not missed a F1 grand prix since he made his first career start in the 2001 Australian GP. He won his world championships in 2005 and ‘06, driving for Renault at the time. The 33-year-old Spaniard spent the past five years with Ferrari before returning to McLaren this season.

“It will be tough not to be in Australia, but I understand the recommendations. A second impact in less than 21 days ‘No’,“ Alonso tweeted.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   Watch Jon Stewart dole out a very low blow to WWE superstar Seth Rollins

Host of “The Daily Show” and longtime WWE fan Jon Stewart killed it on “Raw” on Monday night. He also killed pro wrestler Seth Rollins’s junk with his finishing move, dubbed on Twitter as “The Daily Low Blow.”

Stewart’s finisher came after he doled out several minutes of excellent commentary, during which he schooled Rollins about his actual role in WWE (stooge of “The Authority”) opposed to the aggrandized role Rollins perceives he’s in (“The future of the WWE!”). He also sneaked in quite a good insult.


“How could I make a fool out of man dressed like a S.W.A.T. team stripper with Lady Gaga’s hair?” Stewart said, referring to Rollins’s trademark black and white hairdo.

Rollins, a most excellent heel who started the “feud” with Stewart two weeks ago, didn’t just let Stewart throw barbs at him, however; things eventually got physical, which led to Stewart’s swift kick between Rollins’s legs off a distraction by pro wrestler Randy Orton.

So is this the end of the feud that began two weeks ago when Rollins’s boasted he could do Stewart’s job better than him? Perhaps not quite, judging from Rollins’s tweet after the show.



The Gilmer Free Press

►   New Browns QB McCown barely knows Manziel

Josh McCown barely knows Johnny Manziel.

While the newest Browns quarterback isn’t walking into Cleveland’s quarterbacking quandary with any guarantees, he recognizes his obligation to help Manziel the way he would any teammate.

“It is easy,” McCown said Monday of taking on a mentoring role as well as competing for the starting position. “You’ve got to lead by example first and foremost.”

McCown said opportunities to teach teammates at the same position generally come naturally while preparing to play.

“You can use some of that time to share some of your experiences,” he said. “And hopefully guys can benefit from it.”

Manziel, currently in a rehab facility, was a flop in his rookie season after Cleveland chose him in the first round of the draft. McCown, 35 and heading into his 13th NFL season, signed a huge deal as a free agent last year with Tampa Bay following a strong fill-in performance for injured Jay Cutler in Chicago. But McCown went 1-10 for the Bucs, who released him last month.

The only time he crossed paths with Manziel was briefly when Manziel visited Tampa Bay before the 2014 draft.

“For me, it’s just come in and just like anybody on the team,” McCown said, “but you’re right, there’s a close connection because we play the same position and we’ll be in the meeting rooms together. To me it’s just to serve my team and help my team and any teammate as best I can, Johnny included.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know him.”

McCown will likely compete for the starting job, but if he doesn’t win it, he can serve as a mentor for Manziel and Connor Shaw. McCown was asked if he expects another quarterback to join the group; Cleveland has had 22 starting quarterbacks since 1999.

“No matter who joins us in that room or what that room looks like, the goal and my part at least is to help us come together and play good football,” he said. “As the veteran in there right now, it starts with me. I’m excited about that and I embrace that, and I look forward to helping that group play good football and going out and doing that myself, too.”

The Browns lost their final five games in 2014 to finish 7-9, the only AFC North team not to make the playoffs. They also are the only team in that division without an established starting quarterback.

McCown has been a starter only periodically in his career, and he comes off an awful season in which he was benched and the Buccaneers earned the top overall draft pick by going 2-14. He accepts some of the blame for that record, and sees it as an educational year.

“I don’t shy away from it,” McCown said. “In that situation, I wasn’t good enough to pull us out of that. It was an unfortunate thing to happen, losing an offensive coordinator (Jeff Tedford) the week before the season, and everybody busted their butt to try to pull together and get ourselves out of that. We just weren’t good enough.

“If anything, it just lights a fire to get that bad taste out of my mouth because that was not the way certainly I would have hoped to have planned for that season to go. I want to see it changed. … I think, too, I’m better prepared if that does happen because I sure did learn a lot.”


►   Eagles release CB Cary Williams

The Philadelphia Eagles released cornerback Cary Williams on Tuesday.

Williams, 30, was due to count for more than $8 million against the salary cap next season, which would have been the final year of a deal he signed during the 2013 offseason.

He started all 32 games in his two seasons with the Eagles, registering five interceptions.

A seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008, Williams earned a starting role with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. He posted four interceptions in 2012, as the Ravens won the Super Bowl.


►   Extra Points: Eagles on fast track to dysfunction

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie once called his operation “kind of the gold standard.“

These days, it’s kind of a mess thanks to the distrust between coach Chip Kelly and his former boss, Howie Roseman. In fact, the gold standard has gone from zero to dysfunction faster than your average Corvette.

Kelly won a power struggle back in January, gaining full control of the personnel side and banishing Roseman back to the business end of the operation, where the ex-GM is supposed to be handling the contract negotiations of the players Kelly wants.

Yet the rift between the two is so deep that Roseman’s office at the team’s facility, which used to be two doors down from Kelly’s, was recently moved from the football operations end of the building to the business side, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Most who lose power struggles typically are shown the door but Lurie is hedging his bets here and trying to serve two masters, attempting to keep his indispensable right-hand man (Roseman) in case the flavor of the month (Kelly) turns out to be exactly that.

Roseman’s natural state is that of a shark, however, a take-no- prisoners operative in the mold of a Rahm Emanuel. At 39, he was the youngest GM in all of football and the list of executives who have lost power struggles to him is stunning: Joe Banner, Tom Heckert, Jason Licht, Ryan Grigson, Louis Riddick, and Kelly’s friend Tom Gamble.

And although he finally lost one to Kelly, Roseman is staying put for now and still swimming while playing the waiting game, hoping the extra rope Kelly has been given will be enough to hang the coach Howie had a hand in hiring.

Anyone who knows Roseman and what makes him tick understands his first love is personnel so having that aspect of the job taken away from him has been difficult despite the consolation prize of a fancy new title (executive vice president of football operations) and a few more zeros in his paycheck.

Roseman, though, understands Lurie couldn’t chose him over Kelly this early in the former Oregon coach’s tenure because the Eagles changed their entire culture to lure Kelly from the college ranks and his unconventional methods simply can’t be duplicated.

Roseman is now actively trying to speed up Kelly’s demise, speaking out about the coach’s perceived willingness to mortgage the future in an effort to reunite with his old college quarterback, Marcus Mariota.

The Eagles are scheduled to pick at No. 20 on April 30 and moving up to the top spot or even No. 2 in an effort to get Mariota is almost untenable unless Kelly is willing to risk it all, something Roseman seems to be secretly rooting for in the hopes it ultimately fails.

“When you’re looking at trading up, at some point, your board drops off so dramatically in terms of how you evaluate that player,“ Roseman recently said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. “But the history of trading up for one player, when you look at those trades, isn’t good for the team trading up and putting a lot of resources into it.“

If that sounds passive aggressive to you, give yourself a gold star. It’s almost as if Roseman is attempting to get his thought process on the record in the hopes Kelly does indeed ship multiple first-round draft picks and a big- name star or two to whomever in an effort to get a player Kelly and some draftniks seem much higher on than the rest of the league.

“I think Marcus will be successful whether he’s an NFL player, a banker, a teacher, a fireman, a policeman,“ Kelly said on a Philadelphia-area radio station when asked about his former recruit. “I’ve said it before about some other players, but if you can buy stock in a human being, you buy stock in that kid because he’ll always be successful in anything he does.“

Roseman offered a far different spin in Boston.

“If you’re hitting on 60% of your first-round picks, that’s a pretty good track record,“ Roseman said. “And then it’s dropping as you go through the rounds. So really, the more chances you get, the more tickets to the lottery you get, the better you should be doing.“

When Roseman was in charge, he practiced what he preached, amassing 48 draft picks during five years.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the player you picked,“ Roseman said. “You can go through each round of the draft on players on your team and see you have guys who are really good players from the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh round ... There’s always value.“

“You can kind of convince yourself of, ‘Who am I really going to get in the fifth or sixth round? Roseman continued. “I’m willing to give up that pick, because I really want this player in the second or third round. But it’s all about the evaluations and getting the right players into your building.“

You do need the right players in the facility but you also need the right front-office people and even if Philadelphia finds its next superstar QB in late April, it’s still going to missing one- half of that equation.  ~~  John McMullen ~~

The Gilmer Free Press


References
ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
DSS - DIRECTV
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 04, 2015
Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Philadelphia at NY Yankees, 1:05 PM - MLB Network, YES
Chicago WSox at Los Angeles, 3:05 PM - SportsNet LA, MLB Network
Univ of Minnesota at Minnesota, 7:05 PM - FS-North
National Basketball Association
New York at Indiana, 7:00 PM - MSG, FS-Indiana, DSS
Phoenix at Orlando, 7:00 PM - FS-Arizona, Florida, DSS
Cleveland at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, TSN2, DSS
Charlotte at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, YES, DSS
Utah at Boston, 7:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, CSN-New England, DSS
LA Lakers at Miami, 8:00 PM - Time Warner, SunSports, ESPN
Detroit at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Detroit, New Orleans, DSS
Memphis at Houston, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Denver at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - Altitude2, FS-North, DSS
Philadelphia at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Sacramento at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - CSN-California, FS-Southwest, DSS
Portland at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-Prime Ticket, ESPN
Milwaukee at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, CSN-Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
Ottawa at Winnipeg, 7:30 PM - TVA, SNET, DSS
NY Rangers at Detroit, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Montreal at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - SNET, RDS, FS-West, DSS
Pittsburgh at Colorado, 10:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, Altitude, DSS
College Basketball
Longwood vs. Presbyterian, 12:00 PM - Big South Network
Campbell vs. Gardner-Webb, 2:00 PM - Big South Network
Liberty vs. UNC-Asheville, 6:00 PM - Big South Network
Ohio State at Penn State, 6:00 PM - Big Ten Network
George Washington at George Mason, 7:00 PM - CSN-MidAtlantic, SNY, TCN-Phil
La Salle at Saint Joseph’s, 7:00 PM - CBSSN
UCF at South Florida, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
SE Missouri State vs. Morehead State, 7:00 PM - OVC Digital Network
Tennessee at LSU, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Providence at Seton Hall, 7:00 PM - FS1
Notre Dame at Louisville, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Richmond at Massachusetts, 7:30 PM - American Sports Network
Houston at Tulane, 8:00 PM - ESPNews
St. Bonaventure at Saint Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest
Wake Forest at Duke, 8:00 PM - ACC Network, ESPN3.com
Miami-Florida at Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM - RSN, ACC Network, ESPN3.com
Purdue at Michigan State, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Cincinnati at Tulsa, 9:00 PM - CBSSN
USC at UCLA, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
TCU at Oklahoma State, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
SIU Edwardsville vs. Eastern Illinois, 9:00 PM - OVC Digital Network
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
St. John’s at Marquette, 9:00 PM - FS1
Utah State at Wyoming, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Air Force at Fresno State, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Nebraska at Illinois, 10:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Boise State at San Jose State, 10:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Colorado State at Nevada, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Oregon at Oregon State, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
San Diego State at UNLV, 11:00 PM - CBSSN
UC Santa Barbara at Hawaii, 11:59 PM - OCSports
Women’s College Basketball
Toledo at Northern Illinois, 12:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Eastern Illinois vs. UT Martin, 1:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Austin Peay vs. SIU Edwardsville, 3:30 PM - ESPN3.com
Youngstown State at Cleveland State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Illinois-Chicago at Wright State, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Buffalo at Bowling Green, 7:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Auburn vs. Florida, 7:00 PM - SEC Network+
Detroit at Milwaukee, 8:00 PM - ESPN3.com
Alabama vs. Vanderbilt, 9:30 PM - SEC Network+
International Soccer
West Ham vs. Chelsea, 2:45 PM - NBCSN
Golf
LPGA - HSBC Champions, 11:00 PM - Golf Channel

10 Things America Must Do to Stop Ruining the World

The Gilmer Free Press

My letter to an unknown American patriot.

Dear American Patriot,

I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself.  Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist.  It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country.  In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.

In any case, here’s how my particular form of nationalism manifests itself. I feel a responsibility for the acts of this country that I don’t feel for those of other states or groups.  When, for instance, a wedding party blows up thanks to a Taliban roadside bomb, or the Islamic State cuts some poor captive’s head off, or Bashar al-Assad’s air force drops barrel bombs on civilians, or the Russians jail a political activist, or some other group or state commits some similar set of crimes, I’m not surprised.  Human barbarity, as well as the arbitrary cruelty of state power, are unending facts of history. They should be opposed, but am I shocked? No.

Still—and I accept the irrationality of this—when my country wipes out wedding parties in other lands or organizes torture regimes and offshore prison systems where anything goes, or tries to jail yet another whistleblower, when it acts cruelly, arbitrarily, or barbarically, I feel shock and wonder why more Americans don’t have the same reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t blame myself for the commission of such acts, but as an American, I do feel a special responsibility to do something about them, or at least to speak out against them—as it should be the responsibility of others in their localities to deal with their particular sets of barbarians.

So think of my last 12 years running TomDispatch.com as my own modest war on terror—American terror.  We don’t, of course, like to think of ourselves as barbaric, and terror is, almost by definition, a set of un-American acts that others are eager to commit against us.  “They” want to take us out in our malls and backyards.  We would never commit such acts, not knowingly, not with malice aforethought.  It matters little here that, from wedding partiesto funeralswomen to children, we have, in fact, continued to take “them” out in their backyards quite regularly.

Most Americans would admit that this country makes mistakes. Despite our best efforts, we do sometimes produce what we like to call “collateral damage” as we go after the evildoers, but a terror regime? Not us. Never.

And this is part of the reason I’m writing you. I keep wondering how, in these years, it’s been possible to hold onto such fictions so successfully. I wonder why, at least some of the time, you aren’t jumping out of your skin over what we do, rather than what they’ve done or might prospectively do to us.

Let’s start with an uncomfortable fact of our world that few here care to mention: in one way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of just about every extreme terror outfit across the Greater Middle East. If we weren’t their parents, in crucial cases we were at least their midwives or foster parents.

Start in the 1980s with the urge of President Ronald Reagan and his fundamentalist Catholic spymaster, CIA Director William Casey, to make allies of fundamentalist Islamic movements at a time when their extreme (and extremist) piety seemed attractively anticommunist.  In that decade, in Afghanistan in particular, Reagan and Casey put money, arms, and training where their hearts and mouths were and promoted the most extreme Islamists who were ready to give the Soviet Union a bloody nose, a Vietnam in reverse.

To accomplish this, Washington also allied itself with an extreme religious state, Saudi Arabia, as well as Pakistan’s less than savory intelligence service.  The result was major support for men—President Reagan hailed them as “freedom fighters” and said of a visiting group of them in 1985, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers”—some of whom are now fighting us in Afghanistan, and indirectly for what came to be known as al-Qaeda, an organization which emerged from the American-Saudi hothouse of the Afghan War.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

Similarly, American fingerprints are all over the new Islamic State (IS) or “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.  Its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, came into existence in the chaos and civil strife that followed the American invasion and occupation of that country, after Saddam Hussein’s military had been disbanded and hundreds of thousands of trained Sunni personnel tossed out onto the streets of Iraq’s cities.  Much of the leadership of the Islamic State met, grew close, and trained potential recruits at Camp Bucca, an American military prison in Iraq.  Without the acts of the Bush administration, IS would, in fact, have been inconceivable.  In the same fashion, the U.S. (and NATO) intervention in Libya in 2011, including a seven-monthbombing campaign, helped create the conditions for the growth of extreme militias in parts of that country, as the U.S. drone assassination campaign in Yemen has visibly strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In other words, each of the terror organizations we categorize as the unimaginably barbaric Other has a curiously intimate, if generally unexplored, relationship with us.  In addition, in these years, it’s been clear (at least to those living in the Greater Middle East) that such groups had no monopoly on barbarity.  Washington’s extreme acts were legion in the region, ranging from its CIA torture chambers (although we called them “black sites”) to Abu Ghraib, from global kidnappings to images of a U.S. helicopter gunning down civilians in the streets of Baghdad.  There were also a range of well-publicized vengeful acts of war, including videos of U.S. troops laughing while urinating on enemy corpses, trophy photos of body parts taken by American soldiers as souvenirs, photos of a 12-member “kill team” that hunted Afghans “for sport,” and a striking “lone wolf” nighttime terror rampage by an American staff sergeant in Afghanistan who killed 16 villagers, mainly women and children. And that’s just for starters.

Then there’s one matter that TomDispatch has been alone here in focusing on. By my count, American airpower has blown away parts or all of at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen), killing at least several hundred revelers over the years, without the slightest shock or upset in the U.S.

That’s one reason I’m writing you: the lack of reaction here. Can you imagine what would happen if the planes and drones from another country had wiped out eight weddings here in perhaps a dozen years?

On a larger scale, Washington’s invasions, occupations, interventions, bombings, and raids since 9/11 have resulted in a rising tide of civilian deaths and exiles in a fragmenting region.  All of this, including those drone assassination campaigns in the backlands of the planet, adds up to a panorama of barbarism and terror that we seldom acknowledge as such.  Of course, the terror outfits we love to hate also love to hate us and have often leapt to embrace the extremity of our acts, including adopting both the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo and the CIA’s waterboarding for their own symbolic purposes.

Perhaps above all, Americans don’t imagine drones, the sexiesthigh-tech weapons around, as purveyors of terror.  Yet our grimly named Predators and Reapers armed with “Hellfire” missiles, their pilots safe from harm thousands of miles away, buzz daily over the Pakistani tribal backlands and rural Yemenspreading terror below. That this is so should be indisputable, at least based on accounts from the ground.

In fact, Washington’s drone assassins might fit into a category we normally only apply to Them: “lone wolf” terrorists searching for targets to blow away.  In our case, it’s people who have what Washington identifies as behavioral “traits” associated with terror suspects. They are eliminated in “signature strikes.” So here’s my question to you: Why is it that Americans generally don’t grasp the impact of such a new form of warfare in the Islamic world, especially when, at the movies (as in the Terminator films), we usually root against the machines and for the humans scurrying underfoot?  The word American drone operators use to label their dead victims—“bugsplat”—reveals much.  The term goes back at least to the non-drone shock-and-awe air attacks that began the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and reflects a disturbing sense of God-like, all-seeing power over the “insects” below.

Of course, part of the reason so little of this sinks in here is that all such acts, no matter how extreme, have been folded into a single comforting framework.  You know the one I mean: the need for the national security state to keep Americans “safe” from terror. I think you’d agree that, by now, this is a sacrosanct principle of the post-9/11 era that’s helped expand the national security state to a size unimaginable even in the Cold War years when this country had another imperial enemy.

Safety and security are much abused terms in our American world.  The attacks of 9/11 created what might be thought of as a national version of PTSD from which we’ve never recovered, and yet the dangers of Islamic terrorism, while perfectly real, are relatively minor.  Leave aside the truly threatening things in American life and take instead an obscure example of what I mean.  Even the most modest research suggests that toddlers who find guns may kill or wound more Americans in a typical year than terrorists do.  And yet the media deals with death-by-toddler as an oddity story, not a national crisis, whether the result is the death of a mother in a Wal-Mart in Idaho or the wounding of a father and mother in anAlbuquerque motel.  Nor does the government regularly hype the dangers of “lone wolf” toddlers.  And despite such killings, the legality of “carrying” guns (for “safety”—of course!—from unspecified non-toddler bad guys) is barely questioned in this country as the practice spreads rapidly both in numbers and in the kinds of places to which such weapons can be brought.

And don’t even waste your time thinking about the more than 30,000 deaths by vehicle each year.  Americans coexist with such spectacular levels of carnage without significant complaint so that car culture can continue in the usual fashion.  Yet let some distant terror group issue an absurd threat by video—most recently, al-Shabab in Somalia warning of an attack on the Mall of America in Minnesota—and the media alarm bells go off; the government issues warnings; the head of the Department of Homeland Security (worrying about his budget tied up in Congress) takes to TV to warn shoppers to be “particularly careful”; and pundits debate just how serious this danger may be.  Forget that the only thing al-Shabab can hope for is that a disturbed doofus living somewhere in Minnesota might pick up one of the guns floating so freely around this society and head for that mall to do his damnedest.

And in the constant panic over our safety in situations where very little danger actually exists, our own barbarity, seen as a series of defensive acts to ensure our security, disappears in a sea of alarm. 

So how to respond? I doubt you agree with me this far, so my response probably carries little weight with you. Nonetheless, let me offer it, with a caveat of sorts. Despite what you might imagine, I’m neither a pacifist, nor do I believe in a perfect world.  And no, I wouldn’t disband the U.S. military.  It’s clear enough that a strong, defensive-minded military is a necessity on this planet.

After 13 years, though, it should be obvious that this country’s military-first policies throughout the Greater Middle East and widening areas of Africa have been a disastrous bust. I have no doubt that a far less barbaric, less extreme, less militaristic foreign policy would, in purely pragmatic terms, also be a more effective one on every imaginable score—unless, of course, your value system happens to center on the continued building up of the national security state and the reinforcement of its “security” or of the military-industrial complex andits “security.” In that case, the necessity for our barbarity as well as theirs becomes clearer in a flash.

Otherwise, despite much that we’ve heard in this new century, my suspicion is that what’s right and moral is also what’s practical and realistic.  In that light, let me offer, with commentary, my version of the Ten Commandments for a better American world (and a better world generally). Admittedly, in this day and age, it could easily be the Twenty or Thirty Commandments, but being classically minded, let me just stick with 10.

1. Thou shalt not torture: Torture of every horrific sort in these years seems to have beenremarkably ineffective in producing useful information for the state.  Even if it were provedeffective in breaking up al-Qaeda plots, however, it would still have been both a desperately illegal (if unpunished) act and a foreign policy disaster of the first order.

2. Thou shalt not send drones to assassinate anyone, American or not: The ongoing U.S. drone assassination campaigns, while killing individual terrorists, have driven significant numbers of people in the backlands of the planet into the arms of terror outfits and so only increased their size and appeal. Without a doubt, such drone strikes represent a global war of, not on, terror. In the process, they have turned the president into our assassin-in-chief and us into an assassin nation.

3. Thou shalt not invade another country: D’oh!

4. Thou shalt not occupy another country: By the way, how did that work out the last two times the U.S. tried it?

5. Thou shalt not upgrade thy nuclear arsenal: The U.S. has now committed itself to atrillion-dollar, decades-long upgrade of its vast arsenal.  If any significant portion of it were ever used, it would end human life as we know it on this planet and so should be considered a singular prospective crime against humanity. After years in which the only American nuclear focus was on a country—Iran—with no nuclear weapons, that this has happened without serious debate or discussion is in itself criminal.

6. Thou shalt not intercept the communications of thy citizens or others all over the world or pursue the elaboration of a global surveillance state based on criminal acts: There seems to be no place the NSA has been unwilling to break into in order to surveil the planet.  For unimaginable reams of information that have seemingly been of next to no actual use, the NSA and the national security state have essentially outlawed privacy and cracked open various amendments to the Constitution.  No information is worth such a price.

7. Thou shalt not be free of punishment for crimes of state: In these years of genuine criminality, official Washington has become a crime-free zone.  No matter the seriousness of the act, none—not one committed in the name of the state in the post-9/11 era, no matter how heinous—has been brought into a courtroom.

8. Thou shalt not use a massive system of secret classification to deprive Americans of all real knowledge of acts of state: In 2011, the U.S. classified 92 million documents and the shroud of secrecy over the business of the “people’s” government has only grown worse in the years since.  Increasingly, for our own “safety” we are only supposed to know what the government prefers us to know.  This represents, of course, a crime against democracy.

9. Thou shalt not act punitively toward those who want to let Americans in on what the national security state is doing in their name: The fierce and draconian campaign the Obama administration has launched against leakers and whistleblowers is unprecedented in our history.  It is a growing challenge to freedom of the press and to the citizen’s right to know.

10. Thou shalt not infringe on the rights of the citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Need I even explain?

If you want to boil these commandments down to a single injunction, it might simply be: Don’t do it! Or in a moment when nothing Washington does isn’t, it seems, done again: Stop and think before acting!

Of course, there’s no way to know what a national security policy based on these 10 commandments might really be like, not when Washington is so thoroughly invested in repeating its failed acts.  It’s now deep into Iraq War 3.0, intent on further slowing the “withdrawal” from Afghanistan, and pursuing the usual drone assassination strategies, as from South Asia to Iraq, Yemen, and Libya things only worsen and jihadist organizationsgrow stronger.

Yet campaign 2016 is already shaping up as a contest among candidates who represent more of the same, much more of the same, and even more than that of the same. One of them has tellingly brought back as his advisers much of the cast of characters who planned the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Even if the above commandments weren’t to add up to a more practical, safer, and more secure foreign (and domestic) policy, I would still be convinced that this was a better, saner way to go. As Americans demonstrate regularly when it comes to just about anything but terrorism, life is a danger zone and living with some level of insecurity is the human condition.  Making our safety and security ultimate values is a grotesque mistake. It essentially ensures a future state that bears no relation whatsoever to a democratic polity or to the values this country has championed.  Much that Americans once professed to cherish, from liberties to privacy, has already been lost along the way.

In your heart, you must know much of this, however you process it. I hope, under the circumstances, you’ll give some thought to what that word “patriot” should really mean in this country right now.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch.com 

P.S. In my own war on terror, I’ve recently been thinking that a few “thou shalts” are in order. To give you an example: Thou shalt honor the heroes of our American world—and no, I’m not talking about the U.S. military! I mean people like journalist James Risen, who barely avoided jail for doing his job as a reporter and has now dedicated his life to “fighting to undo damage done to press freedom in the United States by Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” or activist Kathy Kelly who is at present in a federal prison in Kentucky for having protested American drone strikes at an Air Force base in Missouri.

Area Closings and Delays on Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Gilmer Free Press
Status of Area Closings and Delays on Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Glenville State College    
Gilmer County Board of Education    
Gilmer County Courthouse    
Gilmer County Health Department    
Gilmer County Senior Center  
 
Gilmer County Schools   Closing Early - 11:45 AM
Braxton County Schools   Closing Early - 2:00 PM
Calhoun County Schools All Closed  
Doddridge County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Lewis County Schools   Closing Early - 12:30 PM
Ritchie County Schools All Closed  
 
Barbour County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Clay County Schools   Closing Early - 3 Hours
Harrison County Schools   Closing Early - 4 Hours
Nicholas County Schools   Closing Early - 2 Hours
Pleasants County Schools All Closed  
Roane County Schools    
Tyler County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Upshur County Schools 2 Hour Delay Closing Early - 12:00 PM
Webster County Schools Closing Early - 3 Hours
Wetzel County Schools    
Wirt County Schools    
Wood County Schools    

Please Send us your closings and delays:    or   304.462.8700

The Gilmer Free Press      The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press      The Gilmer Free Press

G-TechNote™: The ‘Unstealable’ Bike to Begin Shipping in September

Three college kids in Chile captivated the Internet last August when they released a video of an “unstealable” bike. The video showed off the prototype of a bicycle in which the frame transformed into a locking mechanism. A thief would have to cut through the frame to take it, making it not worth the trouble to steal.

The Gilmer Free Press


After receiving millions of views on YouTube and nearly 10,000 e-mails, the trio – Andrés Roi Eggers, Cristobal Cabello and Juan José Monsalve — decided to drop out of their engineering program at Adolfo Ibanez University in Santiago and dedicate themselves full time to what they call the Yerka Project.

Their Indiegogo campaign will launch Wednesday, and the finalized bicycle will be sold for $399.

The Gilmer Free Press


The bicycle unlocks with a key, but there will be an option to buy a Bluetooth-powered feature so cyclists can unlock the bike with their smartphone. Both iOS and Android will be supported.

They tell me the first batch of bikes is expected to ship in September and should be arriving to owners in early October.

The Gilmer Free Press


The bicycle unlocks with a key, but there will be an option to buy a Bluetooth-powered feature so cyclists can unlock the bike with their smartphone. Both iOS and Android will be supported.

They tell me the first batch of bikes is expected to ship in September and should be arriving to owners in early October.

G-TechNote™: Someone (Probably the NSA) Has Been Hiding Viruses in Hard Drive Firmware

The Gilmer Free Press

“Hard to detect and even harder to remove”

The NSA may be hiding payloads in the firmware of consumer hard drives, according to a new report from Kaspersky Lab.

The report tracks a group that researchers have dubbed “Equation,“ which uses previously undiscovered methods to plant targeted malware in hard drive firmware, where it is difficult to detect or remove.

The report found exploits for hard drives made by many of the largest brands in the industry, including Samsung, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

The group is closely tied to Stuxnet, using many overlapping vulnerabilities and techniques over the same time period, and those similarities combined with previously published NSA hard drive exploits have led many to speculate that Encounter may be part of the NSA.

If true, the program would give the NSA unprecedented access to the world’s computers, even when disconnected from the larger web.

Viruses stored on a hard drive’s firmware are typically activated as soon as a device is plugged in, with no further action required.

They’re also usually undetectable and survive reformatting, making them difficult to detect and remove.

In July, independent researchers discovered a similar exploit targeting USB firmware — dubbed BadUSB — but there was no indication of the bugs being developed and deployed at this scale.

It also raises real questions about device manufacturers’ complicity in the program.

It would take extensive and sustained reverse engineering to successfully rewrite a device’s firmware.

The NSA would certainly be capable of it, but it’s also possible the NSA compelled companies to hand over the firmware code or intercepted it through other means.

Reached by Reuters, only Western Digital actively denied sharing source code with the NSA; the other companies declined to comment.

Movie Review: ‘The Lazarus Effect’

A naturally occurring brain chemical is the basis for the hallucinogenic goo that gets injected into subjects’ heads — along with a giant jolt of electricity — in “The Lazarus Effect,” a modern-day Frankenstein story about a team of medical researchers trying to raise the dead. Yet despite the presence of this potent drug — known among the party set as DMT — there’s precious little fun in this illogical and overly familiar thriller.

Despite classy lead performances by Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde, the movie, from horror factory Blumhouse (known for cranking out sequels in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, among others), relies too heavily on reanimated monster movie cliches and scientific gibberish to keep it alive. It staggers, zombielike, from one jump-scare to another before petering out, a scant 83 minutes after rising from the slab.

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After trying to resuscitate dead pigs and dogs, with mixed success, Duplass’s Dr. Frank (pun intended) Walton is forced to use his “Lazarus serum” on his girlfriend, Zoe (Wilde), after she is accidentally electrocuted while throwing the lab’s weirdly antique-looking power switch. More bizarrely, this otherwise high-tech facility seems to be plagued by the world’s balkiest power grid. Much of the film takes place in half or total darkness, with light bulbs flickering off and on at the peskiest times. Such as when Zoe, who has inexplicably returned to life with the powers of telekinesis, mind reading, clairvoyance, levitation and superhuman strength (a la Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy”), goes on a rampage.

I’d be cranky too, if roused from the dead. But Zoe’s bad mood is never really explained, despite a halfhearted attempt at a back story involving her recurring dreams of fire, which suggest an underlying malevolence of some sort. More interesting is the ongoing debate, early in the film, between Frank, an atheist, and Zoe, a devout Catholic, about scientific hubris and morality. It adds a bit of interest, but the subject eventually fizzles out in a killing spree.

As Zoe’s potential victims, the supporting cast of Donald Glover, Evan Peters and Sarah Bolger are fine, if underutilized. Perhaps in “The Lazarus Effect 2” — and yes, the movie ends with the suggestion of a sequel — they’ll all come back, high on life, if not DMT, to tie up the film’s frustrating loose ends.

PG-13. Contains some crude language, bloody violence and frightening images. 83 minutes.

Bon Appétit: Chile-Braised Short Ribs

The Gilmer Free Press

Ingredients:

Servings: 8

  8 dried New Mexico chiles
  4 cloves garlic cloves
  Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  ¼ cup olive oil
  5 teaspoon kosher salt
  2 teaspoon ground coriander
  1 teaspoon ground cumin
  8 1”-thick cross-cut beef short ribs (flanken style; about 5 lb.)
  1 large onion, thinly sliced
  4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  1½ lb fingerling or new potatoes
  4 large carrots (about ¾ lb.), peeled, cut into 2” pieces
  2 tablespoon tomato paste
  1 cup pitted green olives (such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola)
  ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley


Directions:

Toast chiles in a dry large skillet over medium heat until slightly puffed and lightly darkened on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet; let cool. Stem chiles and halve lengthwise; discard seeds. Place in a medium bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let chiles stand until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Combine chiles, garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil, salt, coriander, and cumin in a blender or food processor; purée until marinade is smooth.

Toss short ribs and onion with marinade in a shallow baking dish; cover dish and chill ribs overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Transfer onion, short ribs, and marinade to a large heavy pot. Add broth. Bring to a boil on stove-top and cover pot. Transfer to oven and braise ribs for 2 hours.

Add potatoes, carrots, and tomato paste (keep meat and vegetables submerged); cover and return to oven. Continue braising until meat is fork-tender and separates easily from the bone and vegetables are soft, 50–60 minutes longer.

Transfer short ribs and vegetables to a large rimmed baking sheet. Cover baking sheet with foil. Strain cooking liquid into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming fat from surface occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 4 cups, 8–10 minutes.

Place covered baking sheet with ribs and vegetables in oven until reheated, about 15 minutes. Stir olives and parsley into sauce and rewarm, stirring occasionally, over medium heat.

Divide short ribs and vegetables among plates and spoon sauce over.

Do Ahead: Short ribs, vegetables, and sauce can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover sauce. Let sauce and ribs and vegetables stand at room temperature.

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Horoscopes: March 04, 2015

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One of the ways the universe teaches patience is by annoying us. If the whole world were just 10 percent more tolerant, it would be like paradise came down. Whatever ruffles your feathers, you can thank Mercury and Jupiter for the bothersome gift. You’ll be a better person for it. Bonus: Tomorrow it will seem like no big deal.

ARIES (March 21-April 19). It’s nice when things come easily, but it’s not always beneficial. Difficulties are just part of your initiation. They give you a sense of belonging you wouldn’t have otherwise, and they get you ready for the challenges ahead.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20). People have a tendency to reject what they haven’t tasted, but you’re more adventurous than that. The vegetables (and life’s equivalent) are typically good for you, and you’ll like them if you give them a chance.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21). You’ll find yourself in a room full of VIPs, and you very much belong there. Bring reality to the group before anyone’s head explodes. When everyone is famous, no one is famous.

CANCER (June 22-July 22). Your halfhearted effort will yield results that are on par with your wholehearted effort. Maybe this is unfair, or maybe it’s extremely fair, considering you’ve already put in your time and paid your dues.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22). Love may be stabilizing, but it’s not like a rock. You can’t give it to someone and expect it to keep the same shape through the ages. Like bread, you have to make it fresh every time you give it.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22). Rigor, relevance, relationships and responsibility. It’s more than a high school motto; it’s the way you live your life. These four “r’s” will shape your days this week.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). Einstein suggested that reality is a (very persistent) illusion, making a good case for persistence in general. If you behave in a certain way enough times, you’ll be characterized as the essence of that behavior.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). Your conscience will prevent you from fully indulging in extravagance. You’ll dip your toe in, though. How can you help it when such luxurious options present themselves?

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). There’s a competition going on, and if you continue to work hard, you’ll be the sure winner. Be sure to distinguish between competition and fun, though. There’s no winner at fun (unless you count everyone).

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). It’s said that the right habits will give you the key to the universe. Indeed, if you can command yourself to do as you think you should, you’ll have many new options.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18). Don’t assume that people know what you’re about. Start from the beginning. Give them some context. Take your time — they want you to. You’re more entertaining than you know.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20). You don’t write your name now the same way you did when you were 8, and you don’t dress the same way you did in the ’90s. Your style is ever-evolving, as is evident by today’s choices.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY (March 04). This month’s challenge is a no-brainer. You’ll excel because you do what you’re supposed to be doing. Next month will bring a new deal. Putting in extra work hours will help you fulfill a wish. June brings you a gift that’s hard to come by, rare or expensive. Someone special will capture your heart in September. Aries and Aquarius people adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 10, 8, 30, 15 and 19.

STORYTELLING BY THE STARS: Inside everyone and everything is a fascinating story, but it takes a stellar storyteller to find it. Yesterday’s trine of Jupiter in Leo and Uranus in Aries continues to bring good fortune to those who can captivate an audience with a good story. See the archives for part one and two of this series. Here are additional tips to help you hone this crucial life skill. Start in the Middle

Most people have a tendency to start too early in the story, thus losing their audience in the boring minutiae leading up to an event. Think of yourself as a runner about to make a leap. You don’t want to tire yourself out before you get to the hurdle. Back up just enough to give yourself the momentum of a running start. In other words, ask yourself what the most exciting part of the story is, and back up a few steps from that point. Subject Matter Matters

Perhaps the most important thing to know about storytelling is which story to tell. No matter how well you tell it, a bad match of audience to topic will never play, and a good one is hard to mess up.

CELEBRITY PROFILES: Katherine Cimorelli uploaded to YouTube the cover songs she performed with her sisters and helped the six smiling siblings to become an Internet sensation. The homeschooled crew now tours the world with their own version of popular songs, as well as originals written by top songwriters. Her sun and moon in Pisces points to great powers of creativity, while Mercury in Aries suggests a bubbly attitude.

G-MM™: Meditation Moment 150304

image

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.


Colossians 3:17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


The Road Not Taken
And Now, for Something Completely Different

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost, 1916


Notes on the Scripture

To keep us from getting in a rut, we do something different every Wednesday, and today we are reading The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Summary

The speaker thinks back to a time he was standing in the woods, considering a fork in the road. Both ways were equally worn and equally overlaid with untrodden leaves. The speaker chose one, telling himself that he would take the other another day. Yet he knew, even then, that it was unlikely that he would have the opportunity to do so, for “way leads onto way”, and we tend to keep following the twists and turns of the path we are on, not to go back and start over. He realizes that he might have taken the other road with a sigh — there is something about it he regrets — but he took the road that fewer people take, and it completely changed how his life went.

First off, we have to understand that the meaning of the poem is complex. You cannot simply say, “the poet took the less-traveled road of creativity rather than joining a majority of conformists, and it made his life something wonderful and different.” He says that one of the roads “was grassy and wanted wear” — the grass had not been worn down by as many people walking on it. But then, in the next line he tells us, “Though as for that, the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same.” In other words, people walking had actually worn them down by the same amount. The statements seem totally contradictory.

Also, when he thinks about discussing, at some point in the future, how he took the road “less traveled by”, he does it with a sigh. There is an element of regret: but what does he regret? Is he lying about his road being less traveled (as some recent critics would tell us), making himself out to be some sort of special case when he is actually not?

There is a point, obvious when noticed but usually overlooked (by Scott Peck and many others), that serves as a starting point to understanding it. The title of the poem is “The Road Not Taken”, not “The Road Less Traveled”. The poem is primarily about the other road. Perhaps one might sum up the primary theme like this: “Even if you choose the best path in life, it will not be perfect; and by the nature of life, there will be things you missed that you might have done or had, if you had chosen another path.”

And in this is a wonderful message for Christians. We know that we have chosen the right path, because our path leads to perfection, to salvation, to eternal life and joy. But we will never quite be able to grasp God’s perfection and joy in our lifetime; as much as we die to our flesh, our flesh does not die. We hold a life in contradiction just like the speaker in Frost’s poem. Because we are human, we will have some sort of regret. Not a burning deep bitterness, not a wish that we had never found Christ; not by any means. The poet sighs; he doesn’t wail.

Did Paul or Mother Theresa even have a wistful moment, wishing they had married and had children? It is certainly possible. Using this as our example, on the other hand, are there devout Catholics who wished that they had taken vows of celibacy and not married, so that they might have served as priests or nuns? Absolutely. But this doesn’t mean that either the nun or the mother would change the path they took.

We know that we have taken the right road, and would lose everything else before we would give up Christ. He is our Alpha and Omega. He is so much the core of our identity that we say we live in Him. So we must not be perturbed about these bittersweet moments, thinking about what might have been. We sigh a bit, is all.

William L. Lake

The Gilmer Free Press

William L. Lake

Age 67, of Frametown, WV passed away March 01, 2015 at home.

He was born September 12, 1947 in Braxton County, WV a son of the late Leo Hilbert and Verma I. Lowther Lake.

He was retired from Equitrans, Inc. with 35 years of service.

He was a member of the Hope Baptist Church, Frametown.

He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and gardening.

He is survived by his spouse, Barbara Blake Lake; siblings, Hilbert W. “Bob” Lake and wife, Eulaine, Betty Sue Duncan and husband, William, Wallace R. Lake and wife, Cheryl, and Donna Brown; several nieces and nephews.

Per Mr. Lake’s request his body was cremated.

There will be no services.

Arrangements by Richard M. Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Naomi Faye Slider Starcher

The Gilmer Free Press

Naomi Faye Slider Starcher

Age 77, of Monroe, North Carolina, passed away Saturday, February 28, 2015, at Jesse Helms Nursing Center.

Mrs. Starcher was born on January 24, 1938, in Calhoun County, West Virginia, a daughter of the late George E. Slider and Ada Blake Slider.

She was a homemaker in her own home.

Survivors include her husband, Gary Gene Starcher of Monroe, NC; a daughter, Barbra S. Coward and husband Joey of Darlington, SC; one brother, Larry Slider and wife Janice of Cameron, NC; three grandchildren, Brady Seals, Bradley Coward, and Stacey Coward; and two nephews Bryan Slider and wife Diana and Kevin Slider and wife Paige.

A Funeral service to Celebrate the Life of Naomi Starcher will be conducted at 2:00 PM Saturday, March 07, 2015, at Davis Funeral Chapel, 1003 East Franklin Street, Monroe, NC, officiated by Reverend Don Meadows.

The family will receive friends Saturday, March 07, from 1 PM until the time of the service.

Interment will follow in Lakeland Memorial Park Cemetery.

Humer - BEAGLE WINS

The Gilmer Free Press

2015 GSC Percussion Ensemble Tickets Are on Sale

The Gilmer Free Press

Tickets for the annual Glenville State College Percussion Ensemble went on sale on Monday, March 02, 2015.

Concerts will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2015 and Friday, March 27, 2015 at 7:00 PM in the GSC Fine Arts Center Auditorium.

GSC student tickets are free for the March 26th performance and $12 for the March 27th showing.

Tickets for other students are $15 and the price for general admission is $20.

For more information or to reserve tickets, contact the GSC Fine Arts Department at 304.462.6340.

Religious Properties Now Eligible to Receive Historic Preservation Development Grants

The Gilmer Free Press

Religious properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places are now eligible for historic preservation development grants through the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

These properties may apply for the upcoming development grant deadline; submissions must be postmarked by March 31, 2015.

The National Park Service notified the SHPO that the prohibition against religious properties as eligible grant recipients has been lifted. “This change in policy will open our grant program to religious buildings that are significant community resources,” said Susan Pierce, deputy state historic preservation officer. “The development program serves a variety of property owners, public and private, that have an important responsibility to protect and preserve our historic resources.”

Eligible projects include the restoration and rehabilitation of churches listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

All applications must show evidence of public support and public benefit.

A complete application package, including funding priorities and selection criteria, is available by calling 304.558.0240 or visiting www.wvculture.org/shpo/grantmanual/development.html.

Grant awards will be made based on appropriation of funds from the West Virginia Legislature or U.S. Congress.

For more information on the grant programs, contact Pamela Brooks, grants coordinator, at 304.558.0240 or .

Gilmer County Boys Basketball Sectional Semi-Final Game‏

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County High School Boys Basketball team will play Calhoun County in the Sectional Semi-Final game on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 at the Gilmer County High School gymnasium.

Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 PM.; gate will open at 6:00 PM.

Since this is a sectional tournament,  admission is $5 each (includes all students, adults, senior citizens).

Since this is a very important game for GCHS, everyone is asked to wear a white.

Please support the GCHS Titans!

School Service Personnel Want a Voice In Charter Schools

The Gilmer Free Press

The charter school bill at the legislature would not let West Virginia school service personnel vote on whether a school should seek a charter.

And those school employees say that has to change.

Senate Bill 14 would let teachers vote on whether a public school should switch to being a charter school, but school service personnel – aids, cooks, custodians – wouldn’t get to vote.

Chris Goodson, who helps maintain a school in Fayette County, says that’s unfair, to them and the students.

“We’re the first people they see and talk to in the morning time,” he points out. “As soon as they get on the bus. They see the custodian, they see the cooks when they come in and get breakfast. We serve kids, we help them.“

Charter school supporters say turning public schools over to a private company would free educators from rules.

Public school employees have pointed out that a lot of those rules are there to protect them.

The bill is expected to pass out of the senate early this week.

Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, says a for-profit charter school corporation could privatize the service and support jobs.

He says the corporation could raise its profits by contracting out the work at low pay with few protections.

White maintains the people affected by this deserve a voice in whether it happens.

“Other people can vote and essentially strip the rights of the service personnel in that school,” he states. “And once they charter, not only would our folks lose their rights, they could lose their jobs.“

According to Goodson, service personnel are part of the school’s community. He says they should be included in determining it’s future.

“It takes a village to raise a kid,” he stresses. “And we’re part of that village, and we don’t have no voice in it.“

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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It is certainly important that Service Personnel have a voice but it is not likely any employee of the School System will.  These folk do not speak of the 36 southern Florida charter schools that have been closed since 2012 or how difficult it became to get public information related to charter schools since when asked they call themselves private corporations and not subject to open meeting laws. After three years that battle continues in other states.

Service personnel not only prepare the children’s meals and care for the facility but also keep their records and assist the Teachers daily.  Service personnel are important and why this State Board is pushing to give the jobs to private corporations is hard to figure. Is this also why they were so willing to have Teachers without teaching degrees? Bring in private business to run education and after the state gives away control the charter schools board of trustees will have the upper hand?  The Legislators better think hard.  Everyone knows the road to H**L is paved with good intentions.

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Why Shy Teachers Like Shy Students

The Gilmer Free Press

The more similar the personalities of teachers and their pupils, the more likely the teachers are to grade them highly, according to new research from Germany. The findings again open up the debate around the subtle biases teachers have about their pupils and how important it is to try to minimize their impact on children’s progress through school.

Tobias Rausch from the University of Bamberg in Germany and his colleagues carried out an investigation with Grade 8 classes in Germany. First, they asked 94 teachers to rate their 293 pupils, aged 13 to 14, on reading comprehension and some areas of mathematics using a scale from 1 (very weak) to 5 (very good). The teachers were then asked to estimate if each pupil would get specific tasks in reading and mathematics correct or not. Both the teachers and pupils also then completed a short personality questionnaire measuring the “big five” dimensions of personality: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness and neuroticism. Finally the pupils were given tests of mathematics and reading.


Personality counts

The researchers expected, as others have found, that they would find bias in the teachers’ judgements. But they reasoned that the more similar the personalities of teachers and pupils, the more the teachers would be in tune with the pupils and the higher the teachers would rate the pupils’ work.

Their analysis did show a significant link between the overall ratings teachers gave to each pupil and their actual test scores. But they discovered that the degree of similarity between pairs of teachers and pupils helped to explain where teachers made overall judgements about pupils’ reading and math ability that were over and above the test scores. But, as Rausch and his colleagues had predicted, personality similarity did not add to teachers’ ratings of competence on specific tasks. This could be because global judgements tend to bring in extraneous factors such as personality whereas the specific judgements allow less room for maneuver.

Other researchers in Britain have been looking at the issue of teacher bias in recent years. Education researcher Wynne Harlen has been a great supporter of the view that we should trust and reply on teacher judgement. But it is to her credit that in 2005 she took a careful look at research into the area and wrote that “there was evidence of low reliability and bias in teachers’ judgements.”

In 2009, researchers Simon Burgess and Ellen Greaves also looked at teacher judgements at the end of Key Stage 2 in relation to ethnic minorities. They concluded:

 

We find evidence that some ethnic groups are systematically “under-assessed” relative to their white peers, while some are “over-assessed.”


Aware of our leanings

There are several implications of these findings for our education systems – the most obvious being that we should all aim to be aware of our biases and make corrections. This might be harder than it seems, as we make sense of the world around us by trying to simplify it and by categorizing. As soon as we meet someone, we notice gender, age and ethnicity. When we start interacting with them, we pick up more information that helps us assess and categorize that person. This is essential: by understanding people we can interact with them better and, as teachers, educate them better.

But for every judgement there is baggage: girls are better at reading, Asians are better at math, older people don’t learn languages as quickly and so on. While each of these generalizations has some validity, they are based on differences in very large samples and they are not valuable when we are dealing with individuals.

But this does not mean we should discard teacher judgement altogether. Judgement lies at the heart of good teaching and I would venture to suggest that the very best teachers are best at judging their students. For some things such as attentiveness, there is no alternative – they must be assessed by judgement.


Use judgement appropriately

Other things need to be assessed by judgement but in a controlled way. Essay writing is a case in point: the length of the essay and the title can be controlled while the marking can be constrained to make it as fair as possible. One important step, for high-stakes exams, is to ensure that the marker is “blind” to any characteristic of the writer. This means substituting names for ID numbers as well as hiding the school name. Together they might give indications of sex, ethnicity, religious persuasion and social class.

There is an argument that even judgement-free tests are also biased. But modern psychometric tests have developed techniques designed to identify biased items and a well-constructed test should have had bias reduced to a minimum.

The inevitable bias of us all and the need to use judgements for some but not all assessments means that a one-size-fits-all solution to assessment would be wrong. I believe it would be unethical to insist, as some do, that young children must only be assessed by observation. We need to choose the mode of assessment to fit the task in hand. When life-changing human judgements are needed, they need to come from several independent professionals ideally with similar personality, sex and ethnicity to the person being judged.

~~  Peter Tymms - Director iPIPS in the School of Education at Durham University ~~

Bills Go to Governor

The Gilmer Free Press

Among the bills that have received approval from the full legislature is Senate Bill 238, which would provide that county boards of education are not liable for loss or injury from the use of school property made available for unorganized recreation. The House approved it on a 98-0 vote with two members absent.

“For too long, I think, a lot of folks, including boards of education, have denied use of facilities based upon their argument that they were exposing themselves to liability,” Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, told his colleagues as he urged support for the bill. “I hope that removing this impediment will, in fact, turn them around because we have too many areas in this state, particularly rural areas, where there are no recreational facilities other than our schools, where we don’t have meeting places for volunteer groups other than our schools. We maintain those schools for the people and the children. They ought to be used by people and children. And yes, this is good for God’s children in West Virginia.”

“And yes, this is good for God’s children in West Virginia.” – Delegate Tim Manchin

Previously, the Senate approved Senate Bill 238 on a 34-0 vote. It now can go to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

Several others bills approved by the House now go to the Senate for further consideration.

The House approved House Bill 2674 on a 97-1 vote with two members absent. It would make home-schooled students eligible for PROMISE scholarships without taking the GED test. Delegates Sean Hornbuckle and Doug Reynolds, both D-Cabell, proposed an amendment that would have made former coal miners out of work for at least two years eligible for PROMISE scholarships for baccalaureate degrees or to attend two-year trade schools or community colleges, but Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, ruled it was not germane to the purpose of the bill. The only delegate who voted against the bill was Dana Lynch, D-Webster.

House Bill 2755 would address seniority and other personnel issues relating to service and professional employee positions at jointly established schools. The House approved the bill 92-0 with eight members absent. It has gone to the Senate Education Committee.

The House approved House Bill 2702 on a 97-0 vote with three members absent. It would redefine the service personnel class titles of early childhood classroom assistant teachers to smooth the transition of former early childhood aides to this new classification of school service personnel. The changes include protections from reduction in force or transfer for such aides eligible for full retirement benefits before the first day of the 2020-2021 school year to create vacancies for less senior early childhood classroom assistant teachers. The bill has gone to the Senate Education Committee.

The House voted 82-0 with 18 members absent to approve House Bill 2139, which would restart expired provisions that allow retired teachers to be employed as substitutes in areas of critical need and shortage beyond the 140-day post-retirement employment limit. The bill would add additional features to improve monitoring of compliance with the provisions and encourage the long-term posting of critical shortage positions. It has gone to the Senate Pensions Committee and is scheduled to go to the Senate Education Committee after that.

The House approved House Bill 2140 on a vote of 82-0. The bill would establish a process to build the governance and leadership capacity of county school boards during periods of state intervention. It would require county boards to establish goals and action plans for improvement and sustained success to end intervention in not more than five years. The goals and action plans would be subject to approval of the state school board and must include needed training and active engagement by the county boards in the improvement process. Progress on the goals and action plans would have to be assessed annually and reports would have to be made to the state board on the readiness of the county boards to accept return of local control and sustain improvement.

If a determination would be made at the fifth annual assessment that a county board is still not ready, the state board would have to hold a public hearing in the county so that the reasons for continued intervention and concerns of citizens could be heard. Continued intervention would be allowed only after the hearing. Supports for continued improvement would have to continue, as needed, for three years following end of an intervention. For another intervention within that three-year period, another public hearing would have to be held.

The bill has gone to the Senate Education Committee.

The House has approved House Bill 2545, would make a technical improvement in the language for reimbursement of teachers for fees upon enrollment, completion or renewal of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification. Currently completion is defined as submitting “ten scorable entries,” but the NBPTS has changed its definition several times over the years and the current statutory definition is no longer valid. The new language would require the submission of satisfactory evidence to the West Virginia Department of Education, rather than relying on a specific parameter of the NBPTS that might change. The House vote to approve the bill was 82-0 with 18 members absent. It has gone to the Senate Education Committee for further consideration.

Also by an 82-0 vote, the House has approved House Bill 2598, which would ensure that teachers of students with disabilities receive complete information about the school‛s plan (known as a 504 plan) for accommodating the child‛s disabilities. The bill has gone to the Senate Education Committee.

Another bill receiving an 82-0 vote of approval in the House is House Bill 2632. The bill would exempt the procurement of instructional materials, digital content resources, instructional technology, hardware, software, telecommunications and technical services for use in and in support of public schools from Division of Purchasing requirements. The bill would require the state school board to define “equitable distribution.” In addition, the bill would require certain technology tools to adhere to state contract prices, add personalized learning as potential student use for technology, and provide for technology system specialists.

“If we are made exempt from the Purchasing Division, we would need to become proficient at the services they provide and have staff to complete the tasks.” –Education Department fiscal note

In a fiscal note the Department of Education submitted for the bill, it determined that the bill’s provisions would create no additional costs. In explaining that finding, the department said: “If we are made exempt from the Purchasing Division, we would need to become proficient at the services they provide and have staff to complete the tasks. These tasks include having a legal source familiar with procurement to review and prepare information for submission to the Attorney General’s office and staff to respond to bid questions, protests, advertising of bid opportunities, etc. However, the staffing will occur using existing employees, thus adding no cost.”

The Senate has referred House Bill 2632 to its Finance Committee.

The House approved House Bill 2202 on a 100-0 vote. The bill would provide a more equitable disbursement of funds to county boards to lessen the budgetary effects of serving high cost/high acuity special needs students. The bill would eliminate the requirement of annual review of rules, policies and standards and federal law and reports to a legislative oversight commission. The bill now goes to the Senate.

G-OpEd™: Infrastructure Still Needed for Energy Job Growth

The Gilmer Free Press

President Obama’s veto of the bipartisan Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act this week is extremely disappointing. Once again, the president has decided to stand in the way of energy development and jobs rather than shift to a more responsible energy policy.

The implications of this decision are far reaching, especially in West Virginia where our energy resources, infrastructure and jobs are inextricably linked.

My first act in the Senate was co-sponsoring the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, which passed both chambers of Congress in a bipartisan vote.

In addition to enjoying support from members across the political spectrum, the majority of Americans — including the AFL-CIO and Laborers’ International Union of America — want the Keystone XL Pipeline built. Yet, despite the countless benefits and tens of thousands of American jobs associated with the pipeline’s construction, President Obama turned a blind eye on the will of the American people.

The Keystone XL pipeline is just the start of the infrastructure needed to grow energy jobs and fuel our economy. The pipeline would ship 830,000 barrels of oil per day, including 100,000 barrels of U.S. crude, almost all of which would stay in the U.S., replacing heavy crude currently being imported from politically unstable nations like Venezuela, according to a recent study by analysis firm IHS Inc. And, it would lay the groundwork for construction of additional pipelines around the country.

TransCanada, the company that first filed an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline more than six years ago, points out that without the pipeline, “U.S. refineries are forced to use other methods of transportation to get the oil they need for creating the product we all rely on every day.” As the recent train derailment in Fayette County illustrated, other methods of transport may not always be the safest option.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “pipelines are one of the safest and most cost-effective means to transport” natural gas and other fuels. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research also reports that pipelines have “fewer spillage incidents and personal injuries than road and rail.” These statistics make a convincing case for Keystone XL and other pipelines to be built.

Unfortunately, President Obama used his veto pen to strike down this safe, common sense, pro-jobs project. As if the Obama administration’s regulations targeting coal-fired power plants, ground level ozone, and methane emissions from natural gas weren’t devastating enough, the president is continuing to hinder West Virginia’s vital energy industry.

Energy jobs make up the backbone of West Virginia’s economy. Although the coal industry’s downturn has been devastating in our state, we have a chance to create new opportunities for hard-working West Virginians through natural gas and infrastructure development. Pipelines, like Keystone XL, increase these opportunities and allow states with vast shale gas reserves to take advantage of the natural gas boom through the exportation of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

In West Virginia, we are blessed to have huge shale gas reserves, and we are still discovering just how massive these reserves are. According to a December 2014 Department of Energy report on oil and gas reserves in the United States:

•  In 2013, West Virginia surpassed Oklahoma to become the third largest shale gas reserves state.

•  In 2013, West Virginia had the 2nd largest discovery of natural gas reserves.

•  Seventy percent of the total U.S. increase in proven natural gas reserves in 2013 came from the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Marcellus shale reserves.

We have more than enough natural gas to export LNG and power an industrial renaissance in West Virginia. Supplying LNG to our international allies decreases their dependence on often hostile regimes in the Middle East and Russia, and as a result, bolsters our national security. Plus it is a huge economic boost to our state and our country.

Later this month, the State Department is expected to release its final report on the economic and environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite his veto of Congress’ bipartisan Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, the president will have the chance to reconsider this needed project.

If the president is serious about standing up for America’s middle-class families and jobs, I urge him to reverse course, approve this critical, bipartisan project and get behind a more responsible energy policy. If not, West Virginians will have a clear view of who is standing in the way of progress for our state and our nation.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and chairs the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
                                                        The Gilmer Free Press

WJU Research Shows ‘Heading’ a Soccer Ball Can Effect Sense of Smell

The Gilmer Free Press

Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) recently discovered that “heading” a soccer ball has a negative impact on a players’ sense of smell.

Senior psychology major Emily Robinson and Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, professor of psychology, conducted a study —“The Effects of Soccer Ball Heading on Scent Perception: Severity of Effects in Adolescence During High School Competition.”

Robinson and Raudenbush examined 70 high school soccer players – 30 males and 40 females to determine if heading a soccer ball frequently or at a high intensity impacted the olfactory functions. The soccer players were asked to complete a brief survey about their playing history and then asked to complete the Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT).

Additionally, they examined what effect frequency and intensity of heading the ball had on the players’ sense of smell.

Once initial testing was done, Robinson and Raudenbush separated the players into two groups for more testing – a high and low group based on the number of times a ball was headed and a high and low group based on the intensity with which the ball was headed.

“We discovered that those players who headed the ball more frequently and with greater intensity had more difficulty identifying scents correctly,” Robinson said.

Additionally, she noted that “males who headed the ball with more intensity and more frequently performed significantly worse in scent identification than females.”

Dr. Raudenbush said of Robinson’s research, “From Emily’s study we see that the effects of soccer ball heading begin much earlier than collegiate play. These high school students show decreased scent identification, which, without intervention, will most likely continue to decrease.”

The testing was conducted during the summer of 2014. Robinson and Raudenbush spent two months analyzing the data before releasing the findings.

Robinson received funding from the Appalachian College Association Ledford Scholarship and the NASA West Virginia Undergraduate Student Fellowship to conduct this research.

Founded in 1954, Wheeling Jesuit University is the youngest Jesuit institution of higher learning in the nation and the only Catholic university in the state of West Virginia. Consistently ranked as one of America’s top regional colleges by U.S. News & World Report and other organizations, it draws a global student body of 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students. The university has 21 varsity sports programs and competes in the Mountain East Conference.

USDA: Americans Are Eating Dangerous Amounts of Sugar, Not Enough Healthy Food

The food pyramid is dead. 

While Americans have slowly adapted a newer model of eating, splitting up an ideal plate into whole grains, vegetables and proteins, there is still much uncertainty in nutrition. Does eating more of one thing relate to the benefits of eating less of another? Is that heaping kale salad so good for you or is eating less red meat truly what’s helping your heart? 

On February 20th, the USDA published its 500+ page report:2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.The year and a half long study analyzed scientific, nutritional, agricultural and public health data to determine what and how Americans should truly be eating. 

Two of the realities they found are pretty horrific:

“About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals—are overweight or obese.“  

The Gilmer Free Press

Changes in diet and lifestyle could help most of our nation’s population; intense methodology and evidence analysis proves that “The U.S. population consumes few vegetables” and falls short in many areas of nutrition. With white potatoes making up for 80% of vegetable consumption across the country, statistics show that access to nutritional food and education about what to eat is imperative. 

But the big question is—what should we eat? While the USDA doesn’t create a specific diet or meal plan, general guidelines should help to improve the way many Americans eat and think about food.

  • Eat your veggies, enjoy a Mediterranean-style diet. 

“Dietary patterns with positive health benefits are described as high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.“   

  • Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and of desserts and sweet snacks.

“Mixed dishes are the largest contributor to intake of sodium (44%) and saturated fat (38%). Sodium and saturated fat have both been identified as nutrients of concern for overconsumption. Within mixed dishes, the sub-category of burgers and sandwiches is the largest contributor for both nutrients.“ In short, snack on some carrots. Or a whole beet. 

  • Drink water.

“Beverages contribute 19% of total energy intake. Of this 19% of energy, major sources are sugar-sweetened beverages (35%), milk and milk drinks (26%), and 100% fruit juices (10%)... Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty. “ 

  • Moderate alcohol consumption is fine, but skip the Red Bull and vodka.

“Energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and alcoholic beverages should not be consumed together, either mixed together or consumed at the same sitting.“ Sorry, bros.  

  • Cholesterol is A-okay!

“Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day…Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.“ Say goodbye to egg white omelettes, the yolk is back in style!

  • For (potentially) best results, adapt an organic vegan diet.

“[ The study] examined vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous diets, both organically and conventionally grown, and found that the organically grown vegan diet had the most potential health benefits; whereas, the conventionally grown average Italian diet had the least.  The organically grown vegan diet also had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact.“

  • To save the environment, save the cows.

“Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood.“  

For 500-plus pages of charts, dietary guidelines, resources, studies and more, check out the full report on health.gov.

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G-Eye™: Sycamore Road, Glenville, WV

Culvert being installed on Sycamore Road in Glenville, WV on 03.02.15‏
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West Virginia News   150303

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WV FARMERS FACE MARCH 15 DEADLINE TO BUY CROP INSURANCE

A deadline is approaching for West Virginia farmers to buy insurance for crops planted in the spring.

March 15 is the closing date to either buy crop insurance or change an existing policy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency says insurable spring-planted crops include corn, spring oats soybeans and tobacco.

Farmers also can buy insurance for loss of revenue resulting from a change in the harvest price for corn and soybeans from the projected price.

Crop insurance is sold through private crop insurance agents.


PUBLIC MEETINGS SET ON PROPOSED NEW WV HUNTING REGULATIONS

West Virginia residents will have an opportunity this month to review and comment on the state’s proposed new hunting, trapping and fishing regulations.

The Division of Natural Resources has scheduled 12 public meetings across the state on the regulations. They include 2015 regulations for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear and boar, proposed 2016-2017 general hunting and trapping regulations and proposed 2016 fishing regulations.

The DNR says the public meetings also will provide information on the state’s new electronic licensing and game check system.

Public meetings will be held March 16 in Fairmont, Princeton, Martinsburg, Milton, Flatwoods and Harrisville. On March 17, public meetings are scheduled in Glen Dale, Moorefield, Elkins, Fayetteville, Logan and Parkersburg.


WV SENATE OKS ELECTION BILL FOR POTENTIAL MANCHIN GOVERNOR BID

The West Virginia Senate has approved legislation aimed at blocking U.S. Senator Joe Manchin from handpicking his successor if he runs for governor in 2016.

The measure approved Sunday on an 18-14 vote would require special elections, not appointments, in cases like Manchin’s.

Currently, if Manchin reclaims his old job, the Democrat will have served enough of his Senate term that he, as governor, could name the next senator to serve through 2018.

Manchin first won his Senate seat in a special election after Democratic Senator Robert Byrd died in 2010. There was also debate then about special elections versus appointments.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.


POLICE INVESTIGATE 2 SUSPICIOUS FIRES IN MCDOWELL COUNTY

WV State police are investigating two suspicious mobile home fires that occurred around the same time in McDowell County.

State police tell media outlets that both fires occurred Sunday afternoon in the Maybeury area. The second fire was reported about 15 minutes after the first one was reported.

The cause of each fire hasn’t been determined. State police and fire officials say the fires could be related.

Both mobile homes were vacant.


2-CENTURY-OLD LOG HOUSE DONATED TO FORT NEW SALEM

A Clarksburg family has donated a two-century-old log house on their property to Fort New Salem.

Bradley Franz says he and his wife, Dominique, believe the house was built in the late 1790s. It was constructed by his wife’s fifth great-grandfather, John Reynolds.

Fort New Salem Foundation board chair Joseph Audia says the log house will serve as a gateway to the campus. He says the foundation envisions locating a gift shop and ticketing area in the house.

The house has been taken apart. The pieces will be stored until funds are raised for a $260,000 renovation project, which also includes restoring several other buildings on the campus.


GOVERNOR ADDS PLEASANTS COUNTY TO POLYMER ALLIANCE ZONE

Pleasants County has joined an organization that promotes West Virginia’s plastics and polymer industries.

An executive order signed recently by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin added Pleasants County to the Polymer Alliance Zone. The organization also serves Mason, Jason and Wood counties.

Pleasants County Development Authority executive director J. McGoldrick says in a news release that the authority and the Polymer Alliance Zone will cooperatively market the county to plastics and polymer companies.


WVSU, UNIVERSITY OF SHARJAH PARTNER ON HEALTH CONFERENCE

West Virginia State University is partnering with the University of Sharjah on an international health conference.

The “Solutions for Better Life” conference will be held November 15-19 at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

West Virginia State said Monday in a news release that participants will include world health experts and high school and university students from 100 countries. The goal is to identify innovative solutions to global health problems.

During the conference, student participants will present their solutions to scholars and health experts. There also will be an academic symposium that will include research findings, paper presentations, panel discussions and workshops.

The conference will be sponsored by the Dubai-based nonprofit The Tekha Group.


COAL TRUCK OVERTURNS IN NICHOLAS COUNTY; NO INJURIES REPORTED

Emergency responders are on scene at an overturned coal truck on Route 16 in Nicholas County, West Virginia.

One lane of WV highway 16 will be shut down until school buses can pass through the area.

No injuries were reported in the wreck.

Public Hearing on Controversial WV Bill Banning LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws

The West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act would prohibit cities and counties from enacting or enforcing non-discrimination laws that do not already exist on the state level.

The Legislature Today 03.02.2015

At the legislature today, there’s a deadline looming.

By Wednesday at midnight, all the senate bills must be reported to the house and all the house bills reported to the senate.

It makes for long lists of legislation to be considered on both floors.

The house today passed a bill that keeps the Future Fund, an account created by Democrats last year, unfunded.

And we’ll talk about the state budget with the executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy coming up on The Legislature Today.

U.S.A. News   150303

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INDIAN TRIBES GAMBLING ON HIGH-INTEREST LOANS TO RAISE REVENUE

In the middle of the Ottawa National Forest, there is a Native American reservation where snowdrifts mark the main road into town. At the end of that town, there is a casino with penny slots and a three-story hotel. In back of that hotel, there is a locked, unmarked door with a punch code. And beyond that door is a repurposed ballroom, once used for wedding receptions, where 11 workers — backed by a Wall Street hedge fund, supported by a call center in the Philippines — now sell loans online to credit-constrained Americans at annualized interest rates of 780%.

In that old ballroom, sitting in a gray cubicle, looking at her Dell: A 25-year-old who only got off food stamps when she took this $11-per-hour job. Who doesn’t have Internet at home, but whose inbox now pings with questions from borrowers, 30% of whom end up defaulting.

Where did these fees come from? some of the e-mails ask, she says. You’re a disgrace to Native Americans, she recalls another one saying. And Amber McGeshick, one of the customer service workers at Castlepayday.com, weighs how she should respond.

As for whether I am doing the right thing, yeah, I am doing my job,” McGeshick said. “But as a whole, I don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know.”

The high-rate loans that come from McGeshick’s office rank among America’s riskiest extensions of credit, capable both of aiding consumers in a pinch and leaving them with unmanageable fees and debt. The loans were controversial even before this latest twist, when Native American tribes entered the online lending business in what they describe as a last-ditch attempt to earn revenue and provide decent lives for their members.

With some two-dozen tribes now offering installment and payday loans, Native Americans have found themselves wrestling with the merits of this lifeline. Following the formula used in casino gambling, tribes capitalize on their right to govern themselves in an otherwise tightly regulated industry. Only in this case, revenue is earned from borrowers who are charged interest rates that sometimes are double what they’d find in a brick-and-mortar payday store. Some Castle Payday borrowers can find themselves facing $8,000 in financing fees on a $1,000 loan, even if they make payments on time. The lending is conducted exclusively online.

Since the financial crisis, more than a half-dozen states have created laws to restrict or curb payday lending, and the industry has responded with a transformation of its own — keeping ahead in part by embracing the safe haven of Indian country, where state laws don’t apply.

The transformation seems to be working: The high-rate lending industry has grown nearly 20% since 2009, much of that growth coming online. Some 4.2% of Americans took out a payday loan in 2013, according to a Federal Reserve survey, compared with 2.4% in 2007. During that span, traditional lenders have upped their own standards for creditworthiness, a course correction after the anything-goes sub-prime years.

“All of the market flow has been going to the tribes,” said John Hecht, a lending industry analyst who works at Jefferies LLC, a New York-based investment banking firm. “It’s almost like an unintended consequence of tightening regulation at a time when consumers have less access to credit.”

It is left to McGeshick and the others to manage the pitfalls of that influx. McGeshick never meets any of the borrowers, never even talks to them, but she reads their e-mails and sometimes wonders what brought them to a place of last resort. An accident? A medical bill? A life of mistakes?

She also sees the other side, how her tribe of 684 members — the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians — depends on the lending revenues, which account for 42% of the annual budget, tribal officials say, and have filled a shortfall that otherwise would have brought many of the tribe’s health-care and education services to a halt. She sees how lending has brought a handful of decent jobs to one of America’s most remote regions, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where winter temperatures often fall to 20 below zero.

Lending has allowed the tribe to subsidize propane costs during winters, preventing members from facing a choice “between heat and food,” tribal Chairman James Williams Jr. said. Lending allowed the tribe to cover the combined $60,000 shipping costs for 12 old Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers — government hand-me-downs, including a few used in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, that will soon turn into permanent housing. For McGeshick, lending proceeds even helped get her an affordable prefab home. She pays a $300 per month mortgage. Tribal subsidies cover the rest.

Earlier in her life, she faced problems much like those of her borrowers. Four years ago, she had finished one semester of community college when she was hit with a $700 tuition bill.

She decided a loan wasn’t worth it. Instead, she dropped out, returned to her reservation and tried to find a job.


A ‘panic’ move

It was 2011, and McGeshick, at first, tried grabbing occasional shifts at her tribe’s casino restaurant. But the tribe was in the midst of a financial collapse — “a panic,” Williams, the chief, said — because Michigan’s economy was foundering and foot traffic was down at its small casino, its only major source of revenue. Some full-timers had been cut to 30 hours per week, and McGeshick often worked fewer than 10.

The tribe’s plan to lure a cigarette manufacturer had fallen through. An Internet bingo site had lasted two months. The tribe had lost more than $6 million — nearly an entire year’s budget — in a bad investment with a Mexican casino czar, and unemployment stood at 50%.

Throughout the first half of 2011, the tribe debated whether to enter the lending business — something they’d heard about from other tribes at a Native American conference. The tribe consulted with lawyers and IT experts. They had to contract out nearly all of the start-up work, and they raised investment capital from what tribal lawyer Karrie Wichtman called a “multibillion-dollar hedge fund.” (Wichtman and other tribal officials refused to name the investor, citing privacy concerns.) On July 08, 2011, the council officially authorized a new enterprise, with the desire to “improve the Tribe’s economic self-sufficiency.”

McGeshick was in the casino break room months later when she noticed a job posting on the wall. “Duck Creek Tribal Financial, LLC,” the notice said. The pay was good enough that McGeshick could move out of her sister’s house.

“Duck Creek — I thought it was maybe something in forestry,” McGeshick said.

McGeshick had ended up in a business of which tribes have long been wary. For decades, Native Americans have been among the groups most targeted by usurious loans. Some 20 years earlier, the Lac Vieux Desert Band had briefly considered starting a brick-and-mortar payday lending store; the idea was shot down. “Most of the tribal council said, ‘Would this prey on our people?’ ” Williams recalled. But this time, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the considerations were different.

“I can’t make a moral judgment on what a tribal government decides to do,” said Barry Brandon, past executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association, which advocates for tribal lending. “Does it surprise me? No, not at all, because I understand how tribal sovereignty works and how difficult it is for tribes to find businesses that provide any kind of revenue. If anything, a tribe is best-suited to deliver that [loan] product, given that they fully understand both the pros and cons.”

A few of the tribal online sites have vaguely evocative names — Great Plains Lending, for instance — but others like Mobiloans and American Web Loan give no indication of Indian backing, other than in the small print. Some tribes forbid their own members from taking out the loans, but in Lac Vieux Desert Band’s case, tribal members can theoretically apply. Very few, though, would be approved, tribal officials said; fees are deducted automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, and most Lac Vieux Desert Band members don’t use banks.

McGeshick was among those who grew up in poverty. She was raised by a single mom and shared a room with her three sisters. For all the perpetuating problems facing Native Americans — alcoholism, obesity — McGeshick’s greatest obstacle was a worldview that anything worth doing was too far away or too unattainable. She was nominated in high school by a teacher for a poetry competition in New York. But just before her flight, she got too scared and bailed. Several years later, she dreamed about moving “downstate,” to the more populous Lower Peninsula, and trying a career as a creative writer. Instead, she got pregnant and never took the leap.

The job at Castle Payday gave McGeshick the first evidence that she was breaking a cycle of problems. She got her own house. She bought her first functional car, a used Dodge Stratus. She applied to the state for food stamps, but this time she was rejected: She earned too much. McGeshick took it as a sign she’d moved into the middle class.

But she’s also had to wrestle with some of the harsher parts of the lending business. She spends time on the phone with debt consolidators, hired by distressed borrowers. She responds to e-mails. Sometimes, she sees people in dire need. One borrower named Martha contacted Castle Payday every day for weeks, confused about how the loan worked.

McGeshick tells herself that this is just her job, and that the loan terms are clearly posted on the Web site, and that for some borrowers the loans really do help. McGeshick goes back and forth, trying to make sense of the business.

“I am sympathetic for individuals who are going through a tough time and don’t agree with the [loan terms],” McGeshick said. “Some cases stay with me. If people needed money because family members passed away.

“But they did sign their loan agreements. It’s not like we were grabbing them and saying, ‘You better get a loan with us.’ ”

The way Castle Payday is set up, borrowers’ problems can feel far away. Their calls land in the Philippines, largely because the tribe doesn’t have enough people to staff a call center; the Filipinos forward information to McGeshick’s office via an instant messaging program. Borrowers’ e-mails go directly to the tribe but even there, the responses are mostly prepackaged. When McGeshick writes back to customers, she picks from among several response templates — one explaining fees, for instance, another explaining payment options.

“This message is in regard to your recent customer service inquiry,” one such message begins.

McGeshick was instructed never to sign her name at the end.

“Customer Service, CastlePayDay.com,” the letter says instead.


‘Life’s Unexpected Expenses Covered’

The loans are geared to borrowers who lack savings or access to cheaper forms of credit — either from a credit card or bank. “Life’s Unexpected Expenses Covered,” Castle Payday says on its Web site, and it shows a picture of a woman kneeling beside a flat tire. “Getting a loan from Castle Payday is as easy as 1-2-3.”

Castle Payday offers what some in the industry describe as a “second generation” product — an installment loan for which the borrower pays back the principle and the fees over months or years. Over the last few years, many lenders have swung over to installment loans, as opposed to payday loans, which must be repaid in full at the time of the borrower’s next paycheck. Installment and payday loans have similar interest rates, but by structuring payments over a longer period of time, lenders are able to avoid some state legislation that strictly targets “short-term” lending.

The loans “are structured as installments but have very devastating consequences for consumers,” said Diane Standaert, director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending. “These are triple-digit [interest rate] loans made with access to borrowers’ bank accounts.”

Castle Payday’s loans come at a steep price. A $1,000 loan, repaid on the first payment date, will come with $350 in fees. And the fees escalate quickly if borrowers wait longer to pay back the principal. On its Web site, Castle Payday shows the example of a borrower repaying a $1,000 loan in 44 installments, spread over 1 1/2 years. The total financing fees: $8,916.25.

Wichtman, the tribal lawyer, responded by e-mail that the lending company “realizes that the loans it offers are sometimes an expensive form of borrowing,” and as a result takes “every opportunity” to tell customers that they can save money by paying early. About 20% of borrowers pay in full at the first opportunity, and others try to make their payments ahead of schedule. Very few borrowers — “certainly in the low single digits,” Wichtman said — allow their loans to fully mature. The tribe does not allow borrowers to refinance; they must pay off the first loan before they can take out a new one.

Among the Castle Payday customers who end up defaulting, some are approached by debt collectors whose practices, Jennifer Steiner, the Duck Creek chief operating officer, acknowledged are sometimes dubious. One collector last year hounded a borrower in St. Louis, threatening him with jail time and using racial slurs in messages left on his answering machine. Those messages, shared with The Washington Post by the borrower’s lawyers, came several months after he’d taken out a $700 loan from the tribe.

The Lac Vieux Desert Band’s 12,500-word lending code devotes only one sentence to the loans, prohibiting more than $50 in financing fees per installment period for every $100 borrowed. If the borrower has a dispute, he can only take it up with the tribe. The code provides “no real protections of any value,” said Andrew Pizor, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, who reviewed the document at the request of The Post.

Castle Payday has encountered obstacles from regulators, too. Last year, the tribe received a cease-and-desist letter from Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s financial services superintendent, who said they and other online lenders were violating New York’s 25-percent annual interest cap by dealing with borrowers in the state. The Lac Vieux Desert Band, along with the Otoe Missouria Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma, together challenged Lawsky’s power to regulate the loans. But they lost twice in court and then dropped the case.

Castle Payday is operating “at capacity,” said Steiner, but it does not issue loans to consumers in New York, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Vermont, West Virginia or Colorado — other states that either banned high-rate lending or have challenged online lenders.

Wichtman and Williams, the tribal chief, often talk about the regulation attempts as misguided interference by outsiders, and say Indian tribes faced similar resistance when they entered the gambling industry decades ago. Williams, at one point, said with anger that the goal of regulation is to “keep us in poverty.”

“Anytime Indian country enters into something new, it’s a fight,” Wichtman said. “Because they think we should stay on the reservation.”


An ethical dilemma

In November, McGeshick pulled a check for $625 out of her mailbox. This was the yearly dividend that every Lac Vieux Desert Band member gets from the tribe, though this time it was particularly generous. In fact, in some years, there hadn’t been a payment at all. This time around, Williams said, the lending proceeds had left the tribe with more money to distribute.

Should it matter, in determining the merits of the industry, where the profits flow? McGeshick thinks it should, and she’s told herself that this is the missing piece in evaluating the lending business. Native Americans, she says, need to do everything possible to help themselves.

“I feel like we got screwed over,” she said. “We’re a sovereign nation, but we’re still being ruled. Still being controlled.”

So after receiving the check, McGeshick decided to try something new, something she wouldn’t have dared do years earlier. She handed her kids off to a friend and booked a ticket to Las Vegas. She went with a Castle Payday coworker, and the two stayed at Circus Circus and shopped and had a few drinks. It was the farthest McGeshick had ever been from home.

They didn’t talk much about work while on vacation, but when McGeshick returned, she wondered how borrowers would feel knowing about the old ballroom where she worked, the place where the money was flowing.

“Maybe it would make a difference,” she said, in how the borrowers felt. “I don’t know. Maybe it would.”

She laughed for a half-beat.

“They’d probably be like, ‘At least I’m helping out, somehow.’ ”

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