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Judicial Reformers Pushing More Changes In West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Judicial reformers have had their way since Republicans took control of the West Virginia Legislature in 2014. Lawmakers have passed 17 bills supported by the West Virginia chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in only two sessions.

Now CALA and the American Tort Reform Association — a business-backed organization that supports civil justice reform — are coming back to the Legislature for more. ATRA lobbyist Greg Thomas has nine legal reform bills his organization will be pushing when the session begins next month.

At the top of the list is legislation creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals. Thomas says West Virginia is the only state that does not provide an automatic right of appeal. He argues that that discourages businesses from locating here because they are worried about limited options for appealing a large verdict against them.

However, the West Virginia Association for Justice (the state’s trial attorneys) argues that every verdict can already be appealed to the state Supreme Court and that an intermediate court will be another significant expense for a state with serious budget challenges.

“The proposed intermediate court would not only cost the state more than $5 million per year in direct costs, but millions more to pay for the additional expenses incurred by the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, Public Defender Services and other state agencies,” said WVAJ president Jane Peak.

ATRA is also going to make another run this session at significant changes to the state’s controversial medical monitoring law.  The West Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that individuals may be entitled to paid medical tests if they have been exposed to a hazardous substance, even if they are not sick.

Thomas argues current law encourages massive class action lawsuits with the potential for huge settlements and millions of dollars in payments for medical monitoring.  For example, in 2010 DuPont agreed to a settlement over pollution at an old facility in the Harrison County community of Spelter, where the company will pay an estimated $80 million over 30 years for medical monitoring even though no plaintiff was ill.

The bill, which passed the Senate last session, but failed in the House of Delegates, would place the medical monitoring award in a trust that would be used to pay for medical expenses and treatment only if or when a person gets sick.

The trial attorneys argue that if individuals have to wait until they are sick before they can have their bills paid by settlement funds, it’s too late. “The purpose of medical monitoring is to provide regular testing to ensure that any illness is caught early enough to treat the condition,” according to a statement from WVAJ.

Expect a lot of debate about these and other legal reform bills this session. Trial attorneys are going to try to stop their losses after a string of defeats while judicial reformers believe they have the momentum — and the votes — on their side.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

The 10 Best Jobs That Don’t Require A Bachelor’s Degree

The Free Press WV

If you think you need a bachelor’s degree to have a respectable career, think again.

There are plenty of well-paying jobs with good prospects you can get that merely require some formal post-secondary training, or even just a high-school diploma.

According to US News & World Report’s 2017 Best Jobs rankings — which determines the best occupations in the US based on median salary, employment rate, growth, job prospects, stress level, and work-life balance — you could earn upwards of $70,000 with some of these jobs.

Read on to see the 10 best jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree in the US according to US News, with salary data and projected job growth included from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

10. Optician

Average annual salary: $36,820

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 24%

Typical education needed: High school diploma or equivalent

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 54

9. Cardiovascular Technologist

Average annual salary: $56,100

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 22%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 50

8. Occupational Therapy Aide

Average annual salary: $31,090

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 31%

Typical education needed: High school diploma or equivalent

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100):  No. 43

7. Massage Therapist

Average annual salary: $43,170

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 22%

Typical education needed: Post-secondary non-degree award

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100):  No. 42

6. Physical Therapist Assistant

Average annual salary: $55,250

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 41%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 38

5. Respiratory Therapist

Average annual salary: $59,640

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 12%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 36

4. Dental Hygienist

Average annual salary: $72,720

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 19%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 32

3. Web Developer

Average annual salary: $70,660

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 27%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100): No. 31

2. Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Average annual salary: $70,880

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 26%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100):  No. 24

1. Occupational Therapy Assistant

Average annual salary: $58,340

Projected growth (2014 to 2024): 43%

Typical education needed: Associate’s degree

Overall 2017 Best Jobs rank (out of 100):  No. 12

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Lewis-Gilmer 911 wraps up successful year, looks ahead through 2017

Though the 2016 yearly totals for Lewis-Gilmer 911 were down compared to past years, Randy Gum, head of operations for the 911 Center, said the small drop in call numbers has actually been a good thing.

“When you take in the fact that we’ve had hardly any snow in November and December, that’s pretty well been the reason that we’re down,” Gum said. “Usually in November and December, we’re fairly busy on the interstate with wrecks, but we haven’t had that this year.”

For Lewis and Gilmer counties, Gum said law enforcement is the busiest of the county’s entities, whether responding to traffic emergencies or domestic calls. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Department and the Weston Police Department responded to a total of 7,685 and 3,535 calls, respectively, in 2016.

“Our law enforcement is really aggressive and does a lot of patrols and traffic stops,” he said. “We get a lot of calls on the interstate for reckless drivers and speeders.”

Lewis County Sheriff’s Deputy E.W. Clark said the department’s patrols were certainly increased through 2016.

“Our sheriff wants a very proactive department, so we’re patrolling the whole county,” Clark said. “We go everywhere from the southern part of the county at Walkersville all the way out to the Horner area.”

Fire service, however, has kept steady with lower numbers, Gum said. The busiest fire department in Lewis County was Weston, with a total of 517 calls.

“Most of those fire calls are trees down, lines down and wrecks,” Gum said. “We don’t see too many house fires in a year, but the fewer house fires we have, the better.”

With 2016 in the books, Gum is now looking ahead to some projects Lewis-Gilmer 911 hopes to accomplish in 2017. Among those projects will be upgrades to the radio system and the new tower site.

“We put in a new high tower, and we just have to put in more communications lines and Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN),” he said.

Additionally, the office soon will accept bids for a new phone system.

“Our current system was put in in 2007, and typically they need replaced about every five years,” Gum said. “We weren’t able to keep that cycle up, but now we’re hoping to move forward to get a new, upgraded phone system to do next-generation technology.”

Gum said the biggest advantage of the new system is that it will allow dispatch to handle text messaging.

“I’ve met with other 911 centers throughout the state, and there have been some success stories,” he said. “With intruders in the home, if the person calling was talking, it would give away where they’re hiding.”

The ability to text dispatch would also be a great asset for the speaking- and hearing-impaired, Gum said.

“Texting is a lot simpler than the TTY for the hearing impaired,” he said. “We have the TTY system, but it doesn’t work nearly as smoothly.”

Though the new system would require a little additional training for the telecommunications team, Gum said it would be only a short learning curve.

“It’s more natural for the dispatchers,” he said. “With the new phone system, they can sit and do it straight from their keyboard. They can see right on the screen what they’re typing, and we can also have pre-formulated responses so that we can respond quickly.”

New hires will also soon be a part of the center.

“We took applications for the last six weeks, and that deadline was Wednesday night,” Gum said. “We have five openings that we’re hiring for, and hopefully we get some applicants in to fill those positions.

“We hired four last year, and throughout training process, they’ve all weeded themselves out,” he said. “We had one telecommunications person retire, so now we have five open positions.”    ~~  Brittany Murray ~~


►  Putnam car collector sends latest restoration to Russia

A 1920 Milburn Light electric car that had been stored in a flooded Philippi outbuilding before Putnam County antique car collector Carroll Hutton bought it during an estate sale in the 1990s and restored it to its former glory is now headed to Russia, where a Moscow-area company has bought the museum-quality vehicle for an undisclosed price.

“I’d rather have donated it to a local museum,“ Hutton said January 13, as he awaited the arrival of a shipping container that will carry the West Virginia car to its new owners. “I tried to generate some interest in getting people in Charleston to build an auto museum that people attending the annual Boulevard Rod Run and Doo Wop festival and other events could take advantage of, but that’s gone nowhere. So I got an agent, he contacted some people, and now the car is going to Moscow. I’m 85 years old. It’s time to start thinning out the herd.“

Hutton said his Milburn, one of only about 4,000 vehicles made by the company during its eight years of production and one of fewer than 30 surviving Model 27L Broughams built from 1919 to 1924, required a complete restoration when he bought it.

“It was in pitiful condition when I got it,“ he said. “At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to undertake the job, but eventually I saw a future for it, and with a lot of help, we got it back in shape. I did part of the work at my (Teays Valley) house and farmed out the rest.“

The car came with nearly all the original parts needed, but Hutton had to order tires from a specialty shop in India and traveled to North Carolina for the fabric needed to reupholster its seats.

“The motor was completely gone, so we had to rewind it and bake it out,“ Hutton said. “When we pulled out the windshield, a 1923 calendar fell out.“

The Milburn is unique in a number of ways, according to Hutton.

“You steer it with a tiller, like a boat,“ rather than use a steering wheel, he said. Flower vases at the corners of the car’s cab are made from lignum vitae, the world’s strongest and densest wood, often used as propeller shaft bearings on ships due to its strength and resistance to salt and water. The car’s headlights come equipped with a green-shaded upper lens that effectively serves as a dimmer to oncoming traffic. “They kept horses from panicking,“ Hutton said.

“These were the premiere cars of their time,“ he said. “They were built in Toledo, but bought mainly by affluent people in the bigger cities of the East. They were particularly attractive to women, because you didn’t have to crank the engine to start it, or get gas on your frock, and you could pull down the curtains to adjust your makeup. You just plugged the car into an outlet, and then drove it.“

The car had a 50-mile range and could travel at speeds of 25-30 miles per hour with its three-horsepower electric motor. The Milburn served an upscale market, retailing for nearly $1,500 — or about three times as much as a Ford from the same year.

The car was built by British-born entrepreneur George Milburn, who arrived in Indiana in 1835, built a dam to supply water power to mills and factories in the town of Mishawaka, and later moved to Toledo, where his Milburn Wagon Works became the world’s largest wagon-maker. A daughter, Ann, married a Studebaker, a member of another prominent wagon-making and eventually car-building family.

The man who designed the first Milburn Light Electric cars was Point Pleasant native Karl Probst, who went on to design the Bantam Jeep, the first generation of the iconic four-wheel-drive vehicle originally built as a World War II go-anywhere transport for U.S. troops.

Although Milburns were considered elegant, reliable vehicles, owned by the likes of President Woodrow Wilson and used by his Secret Service entourage, they went out of production in 1924, after General Motors bought the company’s manufacturing plant.

The 1920 Milburn Hutton is selling to a Russian buyer is not his first international vintage car sale. Two years ago, he sold a 1970 Mercedes 280SL he had shown at the Boulevard Rod Run and Doo Wop show to a buyer in Dubai.

Hutton, a Stonewall Jackson High School graduate and Korean War Air Force veteran, turned his hobby of scuba diving into his own business, Underwater Services Limited, which installed and repaired utility river crossings and inland marine infrastructure, and helped maintain and test dam components. After retiring, he took up antique auto restoration.

“I’ve gone all across the state and into Virginia looking for cars to restore,“ he said. “I’m the 85-year-old’s answer to ‘(American) Pickers.‘ I love taking a piece of junk and making something out of it.“

Hutton said he has already bought what may be the last car he buys for a restoration project.

“I have in my shop now an original 1927 T-Model Ford roadster,“ he said. “It’s painted and ready to assemble.“

But in Hutton’s case, it may be more prudent to never say never to yet another restoration job in the future.

“I get calls from people wanting me to take a look at grandpa’s car, and I’ll tell them ‘no way, I’ve had enough.‘?“ Hutton said. “But after I think about the car they’re talking about, I usually cave and call them back.“


►  Parents charged after toddler found walking in road alone

Authorities say the parents of a 23-month old girl are facing neglect charges after their child was found walking alone in a road, wearing only a diaper.

The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said the toddler was seen walking on a road in Jefferson on Saturday. Officials say numerous people stopped to help the toddler and get her safely out of the roadway.

Deputies made contact with the parents, identified as 25-year-old Tammie L. Gibson and 32-year-old Robert R. Hayes. They were each charged with neglect creating risk of serious bodily injury and sent to jail. It is not immediately clear if they have a lawyer.

The toddler was not injured. Child Protective Services is investigating.


►  New WV auditor wants last phase of giant computer switchover done by year’s end

A big, big switchover of all of West Virginia’s state computer systems has gone on for six years, over five phases and, by now, an estimated $150 million.

But new state Auditor J.B. McCuskey says he’s going to make sure wvOasis gets done within the next year.

“This program has been long needed, and completion was anticipated to take another year. But my objective is to see it through the final phase, including Phase E, before the end of the year,” McCuskey said on Wednesday, his second full day in the office after being sworn in Monday.

The project, wvOasis, started its planning phases in 2010 and its initial steps in 2011.

Project planners at first thought wvOasis might be mostly ready by fall of 2014 and at one point thought might be completed by June 2017.

Early this month, Gale Given, the state’s chief technology officer and a liaison to the wvOasis project, estimated the final phase might be complete by middle of 2018.

Its initial cost estimate was $98 million, but the Auditor’s office says complications and delays have meant blowing past that amount and about $50 million more.

That’s why McCuskey says it’s time to hit the gas.

“To date, the citizens of West Virginia have spent approximately $150 million on the wvOasis program,” he said. “The time is now to finish this crucial piece of technology. The people of West Virginia deserve to see the return on the investment we’ve all made and the results that were promised. I’m committed to finalizing this project as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The project has been meant to update and inter-connect the state’s various, aging computer systems into something called an “Enterprise Resource Planning System.” It’s supposed to help the state’s computer systems talk to each other, to help state employees better track data and to manage those with whom the state does business, such as vendors and retirees.

But because state government is big, so is wvOasis.

It’s so big and crosses so many different areas of government that a three-headed monster — the governor, the Auditor and the state Treasurer — share responsibility on a board that oversees the project. A 16-member steering committee was set up to report to them.

The state contracted with a company called CGI to be the vendor deploying the work but also contracted with another consultant called ISG to help the state understand the process.

There have been various lags along the way, but one of the biggest was during “Phase D,” which dealt with the state payroll. That part got complicated — and hit state employees in the wallet — when a legislative audit showed the state would be paying an additional $50 million over 10 years because of a calculation error as state employees moved to a new biweekly pay schedule.

The calculations have been fixed but Phase D, which was so big that it was broken down into three waves, is still under way. It’s expected to be complete by May or June.

That leaves Phase E, the final phase that mostly covers the Transportation department and its many projects and contracts. Parts of Phase E are already under way but the bulk has been on pause while the kinks in the earlier phases were smoothed out.

Lisa Hopkins of the Auditor’s office has been along for the wvOasis ride at every step. She was general counsel for the Auditor’s office when the project started. Then, last May, she was appointed to be Auditor when Glen Gainer III left office. McCuskey is moving her back to general counsel. She’s also deputy commissioner of security for the state, which refers to keeping a watchful eye over stocks and bonds.

Hopkins says completing the final wave of Phase D — the payroll part — can be accomplished in relatively short order. Then it’s on to Phase E, which largely deals with the Department of Transportation.

“I certainly think it’s realistic to get all of the state’s payroll put in place,” Hopkins said in a telephone interview. “That’s going to be a significant achievement for the state. But getting all of those agencies in the third wave transferred over will be a big move for the state.”

One new factor in the coming months will be fresh faces. McCuskey and Governor Jim Justice are new to their roles. Justice has a new chief of staff, Nick Casey, and a new secretary of transportation, Tom Smith.

“Any time you have changes in administration, you have a fresh look at things,” Hopkins said. “I think everyone involved will see it’s the best scenario for the state to complete the project. I think that’s everyone’s end goal. That’s the vision that needs to be completed.”

The big incentive is to start taking advantage of the efficiencies that have been promised and to bring the cost of development to an end.

Keeping track of the cost of the project has been a challenge because it crosses so many departments and so many moving parts. But Hopkins says the estimated figure of $150 million put out by the Auditor’s office seems to be in the ballpark.

“Any time you have delays or problems that occur in implementation, that can change the numbers because you are requiring more time and effort from our vendors,” Hopkins said. “I think that number seems to be realistic.”

She is optimistic about how the system is working — and will work in the coming rollouts.

“Any time you go from an old process to a new process, it’s a challenge,” she said. “I think it will achieve those efficiencies and provide a lot more transparency and accountability.”

She added, “A lot of times people tend to focus on the things that were frustrating, like the bumps in the road, rather than how far we have come. I think we have accomplished a lot with the Oasis system. You’ve got to look at the positives, sometimes, to keep your sense of perspective.”

McCuskey also praised wvOasis for its potential.

“The system has successfully paid more than 80,000 vendors under the supervision of my office and now enables me to account for the state’s financial transactions and payroll in a more modern and transparent manner,” he said.

The final phase, E, will help the state Department of Transportation connect all of its computer systems, some of which were built off a program first installed in-house in 1986.

The coming upgrade will help the department keep track of its assets and to more systematically set priorities for paving or upgrades. It will also put the Department of Transportation in line with federal requirements.

Phase E was placed, officially, on “pause” while the prior phase was straightened out. But some work had been done before that. And planning has continued even while the actual programming was placed on hold.

“To Transportation, they’re really important,” Hopkins said. “And to some parts of Administration, they’re really important to them. The first goal is to finish the payroll system and then turn to getting what we need up and running in E.”

Hopkins has been interviewed for and read a lot of stories like this one over the years.

She’ll be excited to read one final angle.

“I’m looking forward to the one that says, ‘Yeah, it’s done.‘”


►  Most West Virginians want ‘Obamacare’ replacement before repeal

A majority of West Virginia voters want a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act before it is repealed, according to a recent poll.

Public Policy Polling, a polling firm based out of Raleigh, N.C., found 79 percent of respondents believe it is wrong for Congree to repeal “Obamacare” without a plan that lowers costs, retains coverage and protects people with pre-existing conditions.

Additionally, 58 percent said Congress should keep the working parts of President Barack Obama’s health care law intact.

“Clearly West Virginians believe the ACA needs to be fixed, not eliminated,” said Renate Pore, interim executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, in a statement.

The firm also found that 82 percent of respondents oppose allowing insurance companies to deny coverage for preexisting conditions, and 78 percent oppose eliminating provisions that provide routine check-ups such as cancer screenings.

“The people of our state show compassion for their fellow West Virginians and they don’t think it’s responsible or compassionate to pull the rug out from people who are insured thanks to the ACA,” Pore said. “Congressional leaders should take a page out of these West Virginians’ book and wait until a viable replacement plan is ready before repealing the entire law.”

Public Policy Polling surveyed more than 1,100 West Virginia voters.


►  WV left with 1 abortion clinic after facility closes

West Virginia women are down to one in-state choice if they want an abortion.

One of the state’s two abortion providers closed its doors in recent days.

Kanawha Surgicenter closed Tuesday, according to a note posted on the door of the Kanawha City clinic.

A woman who answered Dr. Gorli Harish’s phone and said she is his wife said the family moved to California two years ago to be closer to their children and grandchildren. She says the doctor had been commuting to Charleston once a month to do procedures and no longer wished to make the regular trips.

With Kanawha Surgicenter’s closure, the only other abortion provider in the state is the Women’s Health Center, on Charleston’s West Side.


►  State BOE moving forward with plans to find replacement for Martirano

Despite sounding like he was having second thoughts about his decision to leave West Virginia, the state Board of Education fully expects state School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano to follow through with his previously announced resignation.

“I’m an honest person as the day is driven, I’m struggling with this decision so much. I’m so conflicted,” Martirano told “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval Thursday.

But in a statement released late Friday to MetroNews from the state Department of Education, state School Board President Mike Green said the resignation was still in effect.

“The West Virginia Board of Education received and accepted Dr. Martirano’s resignation effective July 01, and I have no reason to believe anything has changed. The WVBE will be moving forward in its selection process to secure a new State Superintendent of Schools by July 01, 2017,” Green said.

Martirano announced last September that he planned to resign June 30, 2017. His wife, Silvana Martirano, died last year. She was 54. When he made his resignation announcement, Martirano said he wanted to be closer to his adult children.

Martirano also told Kercheval last Thursday, “I love working in West Virginia and I love our students and every day I think about this decision and it weighs on my heart tremendously.”

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • Mexicans are already tired of Trump:  Mexico reacts to the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.  THE WASHINGTON POST


  • Connecting Students with their Communities: 4 Projects to Help Strengthen Health Resilience    If you work with students, then you probably know that they offer unique connections with their communities, are better able to communicate with their fellow students, and inspire action among their peers. Students help their communities in ways that are big and small every day. Check out these 4 projects for students that can help make your community healthier, more connected and more resilient.    Public Health Emergency


  • Who is really ‘Lying’ about Inauguration?  Here are the facts:  THE INDEPENDENT


  • Disturbed Man Gets Past White House Security, Gives Press Conference:  The man unloaded a delusional and paranoid rant that left a room full of experienced reporters shaken.  THE NEW YORKER

 

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

‘WE WILL PROVE WORTHY OF THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY’

After a combative start to his presidency, Donald Trump delivers a more unifying message, seeking to reassure Americans he’s ready to govern a divided nation.


HOW ANTI-TRUMP PROTESTERS HOPE TO KEEP MOVEMENT ALIVE

Organizers of the marches that drew hundreds of thousands of participants across the U.S. promise more actions soon - but offer few details.


DEADLY STORMS RAKE SOUTHEAST FOR SECOND DAY

Severe weather leaves at least 16 dead and dozens injured in Georgia and Mississippi.


WHO IS AMONG FIRST WORLD LEADERS TO GET WHITE HOUSE INVITE

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s accepted an invitation to visit Washington next month in hopes of forging a “common vision” for the region with President Trump.


SAN ANTONIO MALL SHOOTING LEAVES 1 DEAD, OTHERS INJURED

Police say a “good Samaritan” who tried to intervene during a robbery is dead, and three others were shot and injured.


WHAT CAUSED GALAXY NOTE 7 FIRES

Samsung confirms problems with the design and manufacturing of batteries in its premium smartphones led them to overheat and catch fire.


TRUMP’S ‘RUNNING WAR’ ON MEDIA RAISES TRUST ISSUES

The new president calls journalists “the most dishonest human beings on Earth,“ and his press secretary blames reporters for what he says were low attendance estimates at the inauguration.


CAR CRASHES IN DOMINICAN KILL CURRENT, FORMER MAJOR LEAGUERS

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte die in separate traffic accidents in their native Dominican Republic.


COMPUTER PROBLEM GROUNDS UNITED U.S. FLIGHTS

A company official says an “IT issue” caused a ground stop on all domestic flights.


FALCONS, PATRIOTS HEAD TO SUPER BOWL

Atlanta routs Green Bay 44-21 and New England rips the Steelers 36-17 to reach the NFL title game.

Levels of Radioactive Isotopes in Marcellus Well “Unpredictable”

The Free Press WV

New testing is finding unpredictable levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials in the waste from a Marcellus well.

Gas wells in the region produce millions of tons of drill cuttings a year. These normally contain small amounts of uranium and other mildly radioactive isotopes, which can be a problem if the radioactivity becomes concentrated during waste disposal.

But Andrew Nelson, a researcher at the University of Iowa Chemistry Department, says the industry and regulators assume they know how much of each isotope is in the cuttings.

Nelson led what he says is the first attempt at the complex chemical analysis, to tell what and how much is really there.

“No one had actually ever measured uranium 234, polonium 210, lead 210, a lot of these other isotopes,” he states. “Before we can even begin to start asking whether it’s safe or an acceptable risk, we need to first determine what’s in there.“

Nelson says researchers are finding that the isotope levels vary widely depending on the rock formation, and he adds what they found in one well is no reason to panic.

The industry argues the materials’ radiation levels are not that different from typical background radioactivity.

Nelson says the isotopes are tough to accurately test for, and testing requires fairly elaborate and sophisticated chemistry.

If the landfills that dispose of the drill cuttings test for naturally occurring radioactive materials at all, the landfill operators just run it past a gamma meter.

Nelson says that doesn’t produce an accurate picture.

“If you find a dose rate of 10, it doesn’t tell you how much uranium is in there, and it certainly doesn’t tell you whether there is uranium 234 and 238 in the same concentration,“ he points out.

Nelson says the levels of the different isotopes are important because they behave differently in a landfill. For example, he says, one isotope of uranium is much more likely to leach than another.

“Although they are the same in their original solid material that comes up, when you start leaching them you start getting significantly more uranium 234 coming off the materials than uranium 238,“ he explains.

Nelson maintains there is a pressing need for more research and testing.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

In USA….

The Free Press WV

 

►  Trump Administration Purges All Mention Of Civil Rights, Climate Change From WhiteHouse.gov

Donald Trump has been president for less than 24 hours, but he’s already begun his assault on America’s democratic values and the natural world. Since the inauguration Friday afternoon, WhiteHouse.gov, the official website for the White House, has purged all reference to civil rights, LGBT rights, health care and climate change. In their stead are a list of top “issues” for the Trump administration whose language is vague, contradictory and frequently vindictive-much like Trump himself.

Under the heading “America First Energy Policy,“ the Trump administration vows to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.“ After promising to reignite the country’s clean coal industry, which does not exist, it claims the EPA will honor its “essential mission of protecting our air and water.“

Under “Making Our Military Strong Again,“ the White House pledges to get our soldiers the care they need by “firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down.“ Trump is considering privatizing large swaths of the VA office.

A page devoted to civil rights has been replaced by a screed under the heading “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community.“ WhiteHous.gov notes that the homicide rate in Washington, D.C. is up 50 percent, which is demonstrably false. It also promises to increase the country’s police presence and provide security for Americans who have “not known safe neighborhoods for a very long time.“ The words “African American” do not appear in any portion of the text.

Meanwhile, the “America First Foreign Policy” page promises to destroy Islamic fundamentalism, guaranteeing “peace through strength.“

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America. This is your country now.


►  Bergdahl case presents early legal test of Trump rhetoric

A military court will weigh the real-world consequences of Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric as Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl argues he can’t get a fair trial under his new commander in chief.

Minutes into the Republican president’s term, lawyers for Bergdahl cited Trump’s scathing criticism in a request to dismiss charges that Bergdahl endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan. The motion filed Friday argues Trump violated his due process rights by repeatedly calling him a traitor and suggesting ways he could be punished.

The motion noted more than 40 instances of Trump’s criticism at public appearances and in interviews through August 2016.

“Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened?“ Trump said while campaigning in July before pantomiming pulling a trigger and adding: “Bang.“

Trump’s negative comments take on new importance now that he is commander in chief. Legal scholar Rachel VanLandingham said she thinks it will be hard for potential jurors and others involved in the case to ignore what Trump has said because of the sheer repetition.

“Ingrained in military culture is the desire to serve and follow commanders’ orders, and that what commanders say is right,“ said VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in California. “And so that applies to the ultimate commander in chief. . . . They were made time after time after time, and I do think they are seared into the military psyche.“

Bergdahl’s trial is scheduled for April at Fort Bragg on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Bergdahl, who is from Idaho, has said he walked off his post in 2009 to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He was held captive by the Taliban and its allies for five years. The Obama administration’s decision in May 2014 to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners prompted some Republicans to accuse Obama of jeopardizing the nation’s safety.

During his campaign, Trump made criticism of Bergdahl a staple of his campaign speeches, suggesting such outlandish punishments as returning him to the Middle East by throwing the soldier out of a plane without a parachute.

At a December 2015 rally in Iowa, Trump said: “Let’s fly him over. We’ll dump him right in the middle; throw him out of the plane. Should we give him a parachute or not? I say no.“

There is precedent for a military judge to decide a president’s comments have tainted a prosecution. In 2013, a Navy judge cited comments by then-President Barack Obama when he said two defendants in sexual assault cases couldn’t be punitively discharged if they were found guilty because of Obama’s public comments about cracking down on sexual assault.

Now, Bergdahl’s lawyers say the question of whether Trump went too far is one of monumental importance to the military justice system.

“The circumstances require the military justice system to defend itself,“ the defense lawyers write. “Administrations come and go, but the credibility of the system must remain the lodestar.“

Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University, said dismissing the charges “wouldn’t be an unreasonable decision,“ but that military judges typically seek ways to keep cases moving. The judge could also give the defense wide leeway to challenge potential jurors or limit Bergdahl’s punishment if convicted.

VanLandingham said she believes dismissing the case would be the right thing to do.

“I think justice demands a dismissal. But do I think it’s going to happen? No,“ she said.

As to whether Trump’s brashness could affect future cases, Carpenter said he expects the secretary of defense or military lawyer to give Trump advice on how to avoid comments that create problems for the military justice system.

“Time will tell whether Trump would respond to that advice,“ he said.


►  George H.W. Bush, wife Barbara, recovering from illnesses

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, continued to improve Saturday as they recover from illnesses at Houston Methodist Hospital, a family spokesman said.

“President Bush is breathing well without any mechanical assistance, his spirits are high, and he is looking forward to getting back to a regular schedule,“ spokesman Jim McGrath said.

Bush, 92, entered the hospital a week ago after experiencing breathing difficulties that doctors determined were related to pneumonia. Physicians on Wednesday inserted a breathing tube, a ventilator was employed to assist his breathing and he was moved into intensive care. The tube was removed Friday.

“President Bush will be remaining in the ICU for observation for a few more days,“ McGrath said. “He is looking forward to getting back to a regular schedule.“

The nation’s 41st president felt well enough to call his office Friday evening to check in with his staff, according to McGrath.

Former first lady Barbara Bush, 91, entered the hospital Wednesday after feeling run down and coughing for the past few weeks. Doctors determined she had bronchitis, prescribed antibiotics and by the following day she reported feeling much better. She’s been kept in the hospital for observation and rest but could be discharged on Sunday, McGrath said.

The Bushes’ 72-year marriage is the longest of any presidential couple in American history.


►  Trucker Loses 38K Pounds of Marbles

A trucker has lost his marbles in the Indianapolis area, “literally,“ jokes Indiana State Police rep John Perrine. A truck carrying 38,000 pounds of marbles lost its trailer Saturday on southbound Interstate 465, near Pendleton Pike, reports WXIN. The marbles spilled out on the shoulder and in the median. There were no injuries, notes the AP, but a lane of traffic in that area was affected by the cleanup during much of the day. No other vehicles were involved in the crash, notes RTV6.


►  Student Arrested After Paper Airplane Hits Teacher in Eye

Police say a South Carolina high school student accused of throwing a paper airplane that struck a teacher in the eye could end up in jail for up to a month, the AP reports. According to the South Strand News reports that Georgetown County sheriff’s deputies arrested the 17-year-old student at Andrews High School. Teacher Edward McIver told deputies that he was upset after getting hit by the airplane because he recently had had eye surgery. He also told police he and the student had had previous confrontations over the student’s behavior, and that “something needs to be done.“ The student was charged with third-degree assault and battery and was released from jail on bond.


►  11 Killed Overnight as Storms Batter Georgia

Eleven people were killed and 23 were injured after severe weather struck southern Georgia, officials said Sunday. Catherine Howden of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said the deaths occurred in Cook, Brooks, and Berrien counties in southern Georgia near the Georgia-Florida line. She said the deaths were related to severe weather but could not specify whether tornadoes were the cause, reports the AP. Tornado warnings had been issued for parts of Georgia overnight; the BBC reports that tornadoes were indeed at play.

Local officials are still assessing the area. No other information was immediately available. The southeastern United States has been pounded by storms, high winds, and unstable weather over the weekend. Four people died after a tornado with winds above 136mph tore a 25-mile path across southern Mississippi before dawn Saturday. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Fla., has issued a tornado warning for Echols, Clinch, and Ware counties in southeastern Georgia. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the Florida panhandle.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  Heads Up, Florida: Report Alleges Misfire of British Missile

The US apparently has to worry not only about enemies abroad, but old allies as well. The Times of London reports that a British nuclear submarine test-fired a missile off the Florida coast last June that malfunctioned and “may have veered” toward the American mainland. Two good things prevented catastrophe: The Trident missile was unarmed, and it didn’t actually hit the US. But this is now big news in Britain because the report alleges that David Cameron’s government covered up the misfire, given that it came mere weeks ahead of a vote on beefing up the Trident system. Theresa May soon took over as prime minister and did not mention the misfire in July when she successfully persuaded parliament to spend about $50 billion on new Trident submarines.

So did May actually know about the malfunction? A BBC interviewer asked her that question Sunday morning four different times, and she dodged it every time, reports the Guardian. “I have absolute faith in our Trident missiles,“ May said instead. “When I made that speech in the House of Commons, what we were talking about was whether or not we should renew our Trident, whether or not we should have Trident missiles.“ It’s not clear what caused the malfunction, but the Times reports that the missile was supposed to hit a target off the coast of Africa. Instead, it reportedly went the wrong way, setting off “major panic” on Downing Street, a source tells the paper. “It’s a pretty catastrophic error when a missile goes in the wrong direction,“ says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “I think we need a serious discussion about that.“


►  Britain’s Prince Charles co-authors a book on climate change

Penguin Books says Prince Charles has co-authored a book on climate change together with an environmentalist and a Cambridge scientist.

The Prince of Wales, long a critic of man-made climate change, wrote the book “Climate Change” with Tony Juniper, a former Friends of the Earth director, and Emily Shuckburgh, a Cambridge University climate scientist.

The book launched Sunday is part of Ladybird book series, which traditionally targeted children but has recently expanded to a broader audience. It uses the original style of a picture book but offers adults “bite-sized understanding on a sometimes challenging subject.“

Other books in the range include works on evolution and on quantum mechanics.

The work’s front cover is a drawing of flooding in Uckfield, in southeast England, which occurred in October 2000.


►  More than 1 million join anti-Trump women’s marches worldwide

In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity, more than 1 million people rallied at women’s marches in the nation’s capital and cities around the world Saturday to send Donald Trump an emphatic message on his first full day in office that they won’t let his agenda go unchallenged.

“Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!“ marchers in Washington chanted.

Many of the women came wearing pink, pointy-eared “pussyhats” to mock the new president. Plenty of men joined in, too, contributing to surprising numbers everywhere from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles to Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, London, Prague and Sydney.

The Washington rally alone attracted more than 500,000 people according to city officials – apparently more than Trump’s inauguration drew on Friday. It was easily one of the biggest demonstrations in the city’s history, and as night fell, not a single arrest was reported.

The international outpouring served to underscore the degree to which Trump has unsettled people in both hemispheres.

“We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war,“ actress America Ferrera told the Washington crowd. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack, and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday. But the president is not America. . . . We are America, and we are here to stay.“

Turnout in the capital was so heavy that the designated march route alongside the National Mall was impassable. Protesters were told to make their way to the Ellipse near the White House by way of other streets, triggering a chaotic scene that snarled downtown Washington. Long after the program had ended, groups of demonstrators were still marching and chanting in different parts of the city.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had no comment on the march except to note that there were no firm numbers for turnout because the National Park Service no longer provides crowd estimates.

Around the world, women brandished signs with slogans such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love.“ They decried Trump’s stand on such issues as abortion, health care, diversity and climate change. And they branded him a sexist, a bully, a bigot and more.

“We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter,“ some marchers chanted in Washington.

In Chicago, organizers canceled the march portion of their event for safety reasons because of an overflow crowd that reached an estimated 250,000. People made their way through the streets on their own anyway. In New York, well over 100,000 marched past Trump’s home at glittering Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. More than 100,000 also gathered on Boston Common, and a similar number demonstrated in Los Angeles.

In Miami, real estate agent Regina Vasquez, 51, brought a sign saying “Repeal and Replace Trump.“

“I believe that strength is in the numbers, and that we should all come out and not make Trump the new normal,“ she said.

All told, more than 600 “sister marches” were planned worldwide. Crowd estimates from police and organizers around the globe added up to well over a million.

“I feel very optimistic even though it’s a miserable moment,“ said Madeline Schwartzman of New York City, who brought her twin 13-year-old daughters to the Washington rally. “I feel power.“

Retired teacher Linda Lastella, 69, who came to Washington from Metuchen, New Jersey, said she had never marched before but felt the need to speak out when “many nations are experiencing this same kind of pullback and hateful, hateful attitudes.“

“It just seemed like we needed to make a very firm stand of where we were,“ she said.

As the demonstrators rallied alongside the National Mall, Trump opened his first full day as president by attending a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, a tradition for the day after inauguration, and later visited the CIA. As he traveled around town, his motorcade passed large groups of protesters that would have been hard to miss.

The Women’s March on Washington appeared to accomplish the historic feat of drawing more people to protest the inauguration than the ceremony itself attracted.

It far surpassed the 60,000 people who protested the Vietnam War at Richard Nixon’s inauguration in 1973. Before Saturday, that was thought to be the largest such demonstration in inaugural history.

Christopher Geldart, Washington’s homeland security director, said the crowd exceeded the 500,000 that organizers told city officials to expect. The largest-ever demonstration in Washington, according to National Park Service crowd estimates, was an anti-Vietnam protest in 1969 that drew 600,000.

The Million Man March in 1995 drew 400,000, according to the park service, which no longer estimates crowd sizes, in part because the organizers of that event accused the agency of lowballing the number and threatened to sue.

The Washington rally was a peaceful counterpoint to the window-smashing unrest that unfolded on Friday when self-described anarchists tried to disrupt the inauguration. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades against the demonstrators. More than 200 people were arrested.

Marlita Gogan, who came to Washington from Houston for the inauguration, said police advised her family not to wear their “Make America Great Again Hats” as they walked through crowds of protesters while playing tourist on Saturday.

“I think it’s very oppressive,“ she said of the march atmosphere. “They can have their day, but I don’t get it.“

Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump, took to Twitter to thank the participants for “standing, speaking and marching for our values.“

The marches displayed a level of enthusiasm that Clinton herself was largely unable to generate during her campaign against Trump, when she won the popular vote but was outdistanced in the Electoral College that decides the White House.

The hand-knit “pussyhats” worn by many women served as a message of female empowerment, inspired by Trump’s crude boast about grabbing women’s genitals. They “ain’t for grabbing,“ actress Ashley Judd told the Washington crowd.

The marches were a magnet for A-list celebrities, unlike Trump’s inauguration, which had a deficit of top performers.

Alicia Keys sang “Girl on Fire” for the Washington crowd. Madonna gave a fiery, profanity-laced address to the gathering. Cher, also in the nation’s capital, said Trump’s ascendance has people “more frightened maybe than they’ve ever been.“

In Park City, Utah, it was Charlize Theron leading demonstrators in a chant of “Love, not hate, makes America great.“ Actresses Helen Mirren and Cynthia Nixon and Whoopi Goldberg joined the crowd of protesters in New York.

Tens of thousands of protesters squeezed into London’s Trafalgar Square. In Paris, thousands rallied in the Eiffel Tower neighborhood in a joyful atmosphere, singing and carrying posters reading “We have our eyes on you Mr. Trump” and “With our sisters in Washington.“ Hundreds gathered in Prague’s Wenceslas Square in freezing weather, mockingly waving portraits of Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In Sydney, thousands of Australians gathered in solidarity in Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.


►  At least 23 killed, 50 injured as train derails in India

At least 23 people were killed and 50 others injured after a passenger train derailed in southern India, railway officials said Sunday.

Seven coaches of the Hirakand Express were thrown off the tracks around midnight Saturday, some landing on a goods train that was on a parallel track, said Divisional Railway manager Chandralekha Mukherji.

Rescue workers were trying to cut open the mangled coaches Sunday morning near the Kuneru railway station in the Vizianagram district of Andhra Pradesh state. The train was traveling between Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh state to Bhuvaneshawar in Orissa.

An investigation is underway.

In November, 146 people were killed when a packed passenger train derailed near the town of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in the deadliest rail accident in the country in at least five years.

India’s railway system is the world’s third largest, but is severely hampered by a lack of modern signaling and communication systems as well as poor maintenance of tracks and equipment. Manual signaling is still used at several places, raising the risk of human error.

According to a government report in 2012, about 15,000 people are killed every year in train accidents. The worst occurred in 1981, when a train fell into the Baghmati River in northern India, killing nearly 800 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged last year to invest $137 billion over the next five years to modernize the railway network, which is used by about 23 million passengers a day.


►  Families lobby Malaysian minister to resume search for MH370

Relatives of passengers and crew aboard the missing Malaysian airliner plan to present the Malaysian transport minister in Australia with letters urging that the search resume.

Sheryl Keen, a supporter of the international victims’ advocacy group Voice370, said Sunday she plans to personally hand to Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai dozens of letters from relatives when Liow meets this week in the west coast city of Perth with his Australian counterpart Darren Chester.

Last week, Malaysia, Australia and China announced that the deep sea search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had been suspended, perhaps forever, after a sonar scan of 46,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean west of Australia failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board after flying far off course during a trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

Keen, who chairs her own support organization Aircrash Support Group of Australia, said she had yet to hear from the Malaysian Consulate in Perth whether she would be allowed a one-minute meeting with Liow on Sunday or Monday.

“The general content is urging him to continue the search,“ Keen said. “I do believe some of them are quite heartfelt and others are quite brief.“

Chester said he would hold an informal meeting with Liow on Sunday. Both ministers will welcome the final search ship Fugro Equator when it returns from the abandoned search area to Perth’s port at Fremantle on Monday.

“We will both be in Perth tomorrow to thank the crew of the Fugro Equator for their search efforts in trying conditions,“ Chester said in a statement.

Voice370 wants the ministers to use the meeting to reconsider the suspension of the search.

“A quick decision to extend the search would avoid the immediate demobilization of the equipment on board the search vessel, Fugro Equator, and additional costs at a later date for mobilization of vessels,“ Voice370 said in a statement.

But Chester said the decision to suspend the search “was not taken lightly.“

“I understand the disappointment and frustration felt by the families,“ he said. “Not knowing the final resting place of their loved ones only adds to the tragedy of the situation.“

Voice370 has launched an online petition to increase public pressure on the governments to continue the search.

Because the airliner was registered in Malaysia, the Malaysian government has a final say on the search’s future. Australia, Malaysia and China agree they won’t relaunch the search until they have credible evidence pointing to the plane’s exact location.

Malaysia has offered a reward to any private company that found the plane’s fuselage. The government has not put a figure on that reward.

Keen described that offer as “free-for-all treasure hunt.“


►  With 23 Still Missing in Avalanche, Italy Digs Deeper

Buoyed by rescues from the luxury Hotel Rigopiano on Friday, more than two days after the avalanche there, search crews were intensifying their round-the-clock operation, fighting deteriorating weather conditions including fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures, reports the AP. Five people have been confirmed killed, including two hotel waiters, while nine, including four children who had been on family vacations, have been pulled alive from the reinforced concrete structure buried beneath as many as 26 feet of snow Wednesday. “The research is difficult also because the site is in a precarious equilibrium, that’s why the interventions are made very carefully and why we cannot intervene with big machineries,“ said Titti Postiglione of Italy’s civil protection agency. Instead, workers pushed ahead using saws, shovels, and gloved hands, listening for any sounds that might suggest survivors.

Postiglioni said the high number of people still missing was giving impetus to the search, which included sending sound-sensitive instruments down into snow-crusted debris. Rescuers passed crates full of chunks of hardened snow to colleagues as they tried to penetrate deeper into the wreckage, creating the rough equivalent of elevator shafts to allow searchers to descend into the smashed hotel. Snowfall higher than 10 feet thwarted the arrival of heavy equipment, leaving searchers to often rely on their hands or simple snow shovels to make progress. Maintenance worker Fabio Salzetta, whose sister is among the missing, has been advising crews on the hotel’s layout and guests’ possible locations. “In the end, they were calm. No one imagined that something like this could happen,“ Salzetta said. The last thing he remembers: “The snow. Everything snow.“


►  Russia Looks to Decriminalize Domestic Violence

In Russia, giving one’s spouse a slap is nothing extraordinary for many people. This week, the Russian parliament is expected to take a step closer toward decriminalizing it altogether, reports the AP. Battery is a criminal offense in Russia, but a study this month showed that 19% of Russians say “it can be acceptable” to hit one’s wife, husband, or child “in certain circumstances.“ In a bid to accommodate conservative voters, deputies in the lower house of parliament have given initial approval to a bill eliminating criminal liability for domestic violence that stops short of serious bodily harm or rape. If the measure passes its second reading in the Duma on Wednesday, approval in the third and final reading would be a foregone conclusion. From the Duma, it would proceed to the upper house, largely a rubber-stamp body, then to President Vladimir Putin’s desk.

Putin, pressed on the issue, said “it’s better not to spank children and refer to some traditions,“ but added, “We should not go overboard with it (punishment for battery). It’s not good, it harms families.“ The bill would make battery on a family member punishable by less than $500 or a 15-day arrest. Stats show that 40% of Russia’s violent crimes occur in family settings. In 2013, more than 9,000 women were killed in domestic violence incidents. Olga Batalina, a bill co-author, said the penalty for battery should be lenient for violence “committed in an emotional conflict, without malice, without grave consequences. We’re only talking about bruises, scratches, which is bad, too, of course,“ Batalina said. Activist Alyona Popova is not surprised. “Society is judgmental,“ she said. “You’re a bad woman if you allow this to happen to you, or you’re airing dirty laundry and you’re to blame, or it’s he beats you it means he loves you.“

The Divided States

The Free Press WV

West Virginia GEAR UP Launches Student Success Society In Area High Schools

New program to promote student involvement in school and the community
The Free Press WV

Brenda Smith, a counselor at Westside High School in Wyoming County, has been working with students for more than 30 years. Her experience has taught her that when students feel like they are part of something bigger, they are far more likely to succeed.

“Especially those students who might otherwise fade into the background,” Smith said. “Maybe they are shy or a little unmotivated. If you can find a way to give them that nudge — to get them involved — you can make a world of difference.”

That’s why she was thrilled when she heard that a new program aimed specifically at engaging these students would be coming to her school.

The program, called the “Student Success Society,” launched in 23 high schools this past fall through the “West Virginia Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)” initiative. West Virginia GEAR UP, which is coordinated by the state Higher Education Policy Commission, is a federally funded effort to provide college-readiness services in ten West Virginia counties.

Each Student Success Society group features a small number of students chosen by a school staff member known as a sponsor. Sponsors meet with their groups on a weekly basis to work on projects designed to benefit their school or community, discuss challenges and successes in school or in life and build leadership skills through project management.

Studies show that student groups, such as the Student Success Society, in which members develop a close relationship with a trusted adult mentor offer many benefits to students. According to a 2013 study released by MDRC, students who develop close relationships with a mentor display fewer depressive symptoms than their peers. And according to the National Mentoring Partnership, mentored students are 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school. They also demonstrate an understanding of key skills, such as setting short- and long-term goals and networking with others, that many of their peers lack.  

Student Success Society group members have the opportunity to develop this relationship with their sponsor through a variety of session discussion topics. Some sessions are designed to open up a gateway of conversation about the challenges students face in school and in life while other sessions feature more specific topics such as college and career preparation. Near the end of the year, students will work to prepare a comprehensive project that showcases what they have learned throughout the academic year and how they have grown personally.

Though they have only been active a few months, Student Success Society groups are already making a positive impact in schools. For example, at Smith’s school, the Student Success Society is building a more inclusive environment and changing students’ attitudes.

“Students’ self-esteem and self-confidence consistently increase once they become active group members,” she said. “Freshmen are oftentimes frightened and intimidated as they enter high school. They haven’t found their person, and our group gives them that opportunity to do so. It gives them a feeling of being important because they’re making important contributions to their group, the school and the community.”

Likewise, the Student Success Society members at Westside High School have already volunteered time in their school by working to raise awareness of bullying and its harm by planning daily schoolwide activities during Anti-Bullying Prevention Week.

Sponsor Esther Dorsey from Nicholas County High School said her students will have a month-long project for February that will involve the local animal shelter.

“Our members are going to do a community service project to provide supplies for animals at the local shelter,” Dorsey said. “Student Success Society members will make posters to hang in the school to get the entire school involved.” 

Student members agreed that their Student Success Society group makes a positive impact in their schools — and their lives.

“We are making memories and having fun,” Westside Student Success Society member Ben Bailey said. “We’re learning about preparing for college, setting goals and persevering to succeed.”

Other student members emphasized how being group members has helped them make friends.

“Being involved with the Student Success Society has been an awesome experience because I’ve worked with so many different kids I wouldn’t usually interact with,” said Amanda Flint, a Student Success Society member at Oak Hill High School. “[Our sponsor] has made us open up and understand that even though we’re different, we all go through a lot of the same struggles.”

“Being able to spend time with my [Student Success Society] family has led me to meet some of the most amazing people, learn to see life in a better way and be myself in uncomfortable situations,” Gavin Foster, student member at Nicholas County High School, said.

The National Mentoring Partnership has designated January as “National Mentoring Month” to celebrate mentoring and its impact nationwide.

More information about West Virginia GEAR UP and the Student Success Society effort can be found at www.wvgearup.org.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Wesleyan becomes tobacco-free campus on Monday

West Virginia Wesleyan’s campus goes tobacco-free Monday.

The Student Senate, a supporter of the initiative, will buy supplies and put together “Quit Kits” that will be available in the college’s health center.

The kits will be donated to the Parish House for shared support.

Posters have been distributed around campus reminding people of the initiative.

The college’s tobacco-free policy was announced in August, and tobacco use was curtailed at that time to a gravel parking lot beside Middleton Hall, an area near the Buckhannon Riverwalk, Doney Hall parking lot and an area by a fire pit. Starting Monday, tobacco use no longer is permitted anywhere on campus.

For more information on the tobacco-free policy, visit www.wvwc.edu/tobaccofree.


►  Martirano admits he’s “conflicted” about whether to leave West Virginia post

State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano admitted during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” he was having second thoughts about leaving the position in June and returning to Maryland to be closer to his family.

“I’m an honest person as the day is driven, I’m struggling with this decision so much. I’m so conflicted,” Martirano told host Hoppy Kercheval.

Martirano announced last September that he planned to resign June 3, 2017. His wife, Silvana Martirano, died last year at age 54. During his resignation announcement, Martirano said he wanted to be closer to his adult children.

“My oldest daughter has now announced that she’s expecting, and my son’s getting married,” he told MetroNews at the time. “These are great life markers. I didn’t just have children to be an absentee father. I want to be engaged in (their lives).”

But on Thursday, Martirano clearly indicated he was struggling with leaving West Virginia after more than two years as its superintendent.

“I love working in West Virginia and I love our students and every day I think about this decision and it weighs on my heart tremendously,” he said.

The state’s high school graduation rate has improved under Martirano’s leadership. He supports a thorough, thoughtful review of the state Department of Education to see if its too top-heavy, like new Governor Jim Justice suggested in his inaugural address.

The state Board of Education hasn’t announced any significant progress toward searching for Martirano’s replacement.

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • Samsung expected to blame irregular battery size for phone fires:  Samsung is set to reveal more about the problems that prompted Galaxy Note 7’s recall.  THE WASHINGTON POST


  • Are Statistics Losing Out to Damned Lies?    The numbers no longer add up. In the post-fact era, statistics have lost their value - and that has potentially dire consequences for democracy. It might seem simple that charts and tables guide debate and decision-making. But when 68 percent of Trump supporters distrust government financial data, and Brits scoff at the economic benefits of immigration, political discourse becomes less about facts and more about impressions. On the other hand, political organizations and corporations take the public’s data very seriously, and increasingly use those stats to mold and exploit our opinions.  THE GUARDIAN


  • ‘Hidden Figures’ Pits Math Against Racism:    The problem had nothing to do with the solution. Oscar contender Hidden Figures uses numbers as a great social equalizer, asking viewers to do the math on historical discrimination. It tells the story of Black women “calculators” who helped NASA determine flight trajectories for getting humans into space and back. In a field where the ability to do great work is all that matters - even in a racist era - numbers become the instrument that quietly advances the civil rights movement while expanding mankind’s knowledge of the cosmos.    The Atlantic


  • Waging War Against the Next Ebola, or Worse:    It’s a shot in the arm. Bill Gates is injecting $100 million into a new $500 million global alliance to fight what he told world leaders Wednesday is “the most likely” cause of “10 million excess deaths.“ The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations aims to stimulate pharma companies to tackle major killers anticipated by the WHO: MERS, Lassa fever and Nipah. Pre-catastrophe animal and human trials will speed vaccine development - and hopefully improve on the two-year lag that followed the Ebola outbreak - while devising scientific weapons against unknown threats.  FORTUNE


  • Teaching your Children to Prevent Mosquito Bites:    You know that mosquito bites can make you sick, but do your kids?  Mosquito bites can spread viruses like West Nile, Zika, dengue,chikungunya, and others.  If mosquitoes are still active in your hometown or if you are traveling to an area where mosquitoes are common, take a few minutes to remind your kids how to fight the bite.  Public Health Emergency

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  DC, Chicago Women’s Marches Canceled…for Being Too Big

With half-a-million protesters a definite possibility, the march portion of Women’s March on Washington is proving an impossibility, the AP reports. A DC official says the entire planned march route to the White House is already packed full of demonstrators. While not making the official march, the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance are still expected to make their way toward a spot on the National Mall near the White House.

The Women’s March on Chicago was also canceled for being too popular. Organizers and officials had initially expected 22,000 to turn out for the event, the Chicago Tribune reports. According to NBC Chicago, that estimate later increased to 75,000. But on Saturday, a whopping 150,000 or so people showed up. With hundreds of rallies and marches taking place on all seven continents Saturday, organizers say the Chicago event was the largest outside Washington DC. “This city is making a statement, and the statement is so large we can’t move crowds,“ organizer Jessica Scheller says. While the march was canceled for safety reasons, the rally is going on as planned. “We are just going to sing and dance and make our voices heard,“ event co-chair Ann Scholhmer told crowd.


►  Trump’s First Executive Order Goes After ObamaCare

Trump quickly assumed the mantle of the White House on Friday, making his first executive order one aimed at his predecessor’s signature health care law. Hours after delivering a stinging rebuke of the political status quo in his inaugural address, Trump sat at the president’s formal desk in the Oval Office as he signed the order that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said was aimed at “minimizing the economic burden” of the “ObamaCare” law, per AP. The order notes that Trump intends to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law. But in the meantime, it allows the Health and Human Services Department and other federal agencies to delay implementing any piece of the law that might impose a “fiscal burden” on states, health care providers, families, or individuals.

That includes enforcement of the penalty for those who don’t carry insurance, notes the Washington Post. At this point, however, it remains unclear how much effect the order will have, the newspaper adds. Priebus’ memo says that agencies shouldn’t submit any regulations to be published in the Federal Register unless a Trump-selected agency head approves it. That appears to mean that some regulations that had been approved by President Obama’s administration would be halted. It also freezes any regulations that are already in the pipeline to be published and allows time for other pending regulations to be reviewed by Trump’s administration. The memo is similar to one that Obama’s chief of staff issued the day Obama was inaugurated in 2009.


►  Tornado Rips Through Mississippi, Killing 4

Four people were killed and scores of homes were flattened early Saturday when a tornado ripped through the Hattiesburg area, officials in Mississippi said. The city of Hattiesburg said via its Twitter account that four people had died after the twister blew through the city and surrounding area. The AP reports Mayor Johnny DuPree has signed an emergency declaration for the city, which reported “significant injuries” and structural damage. The city also said via Twitter that Hattiesburg firefighters and police are going door-to-door to try to rescue victims. Greg Flynn of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said rescuers are still searching the stricken area for more possible victims.

Flynn said “massive damage” was reported in a three-county area that was struck by a tornado at around 4am. The three counties affected are Forrest, Lamar, and Perry counties. Flynn said the tornado touched down in Lamar, plowed through Forrest, and then struck Perry before dissipating. Flash flood warnings were also in effect for northern Forrest and Lamar counties, as well as southeastern Jones and Marion counties. The National Weather Service said three to five inches of rain have already fallen, raising the risk of flooding. More rain—one to two inches—is possible.


►  How a Major U.S. Airport Has Become an Intel Jewel

A suicide car bombing killing dozens hasn’t ever hit LA’s airport, and if Anthony McGinty and Michelle Sosa have anything to do with it, it never will. In the Atlantic, Geoff Manaugh tells the story of McGinty (a Marine vet who looks like JK Simmons) and Sosa (a trilingual Boston U grad), tapped to lead an anti-terrorism intelligence unit at LAX that’s something “between a start-up and a think tank”—an amalgam of old-school “beat-police” groundwork with sophisticated intelligence at one of the world’s most hectic airports. And LAX—what one security consultant calls “the number-one aviation target” in the US—is just one portion of the nation’s infrastructure that’s seen such reinvigoration (in part a response to the 9/11 attacks), changing the bridges, tunnels, airports, and other “often-overlooked megaprojects … into the heavily fortified, tactical crown jewels of the modern state.“

The counterterrorism intel culled under the umbrella of Los Angeles World Airports (which includes not only LAX, but also a small Van Nuys airport) was designed to be gathered regionally, then shared nationally and even internationally—putting the unit at the forefront of global anti-terrorism efforts and “[promising] to rival the agencies of a small nation-state.“ Staff have to know when to use policing and when to use intelligence, as well as stay cognizant of how actions taken at LAX during a security situation could affect travelers worldwide. And they have to always be on the ready to take on everything from “big-ticket threats” (i.e., a bomb scare) to a guy dressed like Zorro and wielding a plastic sword, which happened last summer. “You never know what you’re going to get,“ McGinty says. (Read some of the hypothetical situations McGinty and Sosa have to be ready for at the Atlantic.)


►  Harambe’s Grandmother Euthanized in Miami - The gorilla was 49 years old

Zoo Miami’s matriarch gorilla, Josephine, who was grandmother to the internet-famous Harambe, has died, the AP reports. The zoo announced on social media that the 49-year-old ape was euthanized Wednesday morning, saying she had been suffering from several health issues that slowly incapacitated her. Josephine was born in the wild in March 1967 and arrived at Zoo Miami in March 1983.

The Miami Herald reports that Josephine gave birth to her first offspring, a male named Moja, in 1984. He was the first gorilla born at Zoo Miami. Moja moved to Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas, where he fathered several gorillas, including Harambe, who gained worldwide attention last year when zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo shot him to protect a child that fell in the enclosure. Zoo Miami’s only remaining gorilla, Fredrika, will be transferred to another zoo.


►  Accused Cop Killer to Judge: ‘F—- You’

The man accused of fatally shooting an Orlando police officer as well as his pregnant ex-girlfriend had plenty to say during his first court appearance Thursday before saying “F—- you” to a judge as he was led away. Markeith Loyd, 41, told the judge he would represent himself but added “y’all making up s—- … like I just went in there and shot this girl,“ referring to ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, who was shot outside her family’s home on December 13, per NBC News and the Orlando Sentinel. There were “other guns found on the scene, and all kinds of guns were pulled on me,“ Loyd added, per Fox 13. He also said officers broke his nose and jaw and “took my eye” after his arrest on Tuesday, and he disputed police allegations that he resisted arrest.

Loyd, who appeared in court with a bandage over one eye, required 20 hours of treatment for injuries sustained during his capture, which ended a nine-day manhunt. Loyd was wanted for questioning about Dixon’s death—Dixon’s brother was also shot in the same incident but survived—when he was approached by Lt. Debra Clayton on January 9. Police say Loyd shot Clayton once, then several more times while standing over her body, before fleeing. Another officer, Norman Lewis, died in a car accident during the ensuing manhunt. Loyd, who is yet to face charges related to either death, is charged with the murder of Dixon and her unborn child. He was denied bond Thursday and is held at Orange County Jail.


►  Soldiers in the U.S. Army Are Getting a New Service Pistol

For the first time in more than 30 years, the US Army has a new service pistol, Forbes reports. After a five-year search, the Army has settled on the Sig Sauer P320 to replace the M9 Beretta, which has occupied the slot since 1985. The contract is reportedly worth more than $580 million over the next decade. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sig Sauer beat out eight rival companies to secure that contract. Those rivals included Beretta, Glock, and Smith & Wesson, the Army Times reports, noting that Sig Sauers are already used by other members of the military, most specifically in special ops. The Army’s Sig Sauer P320s will be manufactured in New Hampshire.

The Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, was critical of the long search process last year, saying they weren’t “figuring out the next lunar landing.“ “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight…and I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy,“ the Journal quotes Milley as saying. But now that a new pistol has been chosen, expect more police departments and gun-loving Americans—not to mention prop departments for Hollywood films—to take an increased interest in the P320, per Forbes. It frames the weapon as representing “a few leaps forward in pistol design,“ and reports its caliber “can even be changed.“


►  Maker of OxyContin Sued by Drug-Addled City

What does a city do when its citizens are wracked with opioid addiction? Sue the maker of one of the most well-known brands is the route Everett is taking, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Washington city of 100,000 north of Seattle filed a complaint Thursday against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, claiming the maker was grossly negligent in knowing about and allowing a black market for its oxycodone to flourish, “placing profits over the welfare of the citizens of Everett,“ per the suit. The Everett City Council OKed the decision to sue the day before, the Daily Herald reports. The suit, which asks Purdue to pony up punitive damages and money to fix the problem, is said to be the first regarding the company’s alleged knowledge of illegal distribution.

Per the Herald, the suit against Purdue accuses it of turning a blind eye when significant quantities of the drug started making its way into illegal “pill mills” for eventual distribution to Everett. Then, when Purdue repurposed the drug in 2010 to minimize the risk of abuse, people who were already addicted turned to heroin instead—a shift “directly attributable to Purdue’s wrongful and tortious conduct,“ per the suit—which has turned into its own epidemic in Everett, along with the excessive litter, homelessness, crime, and ODs that have accompanied the increase in addicts. The LAT reports the suit was spurred by its July investigative piece into Purdue, which recounted how a sales manager with the company sent to look into why an LA clinic was getting so many pills told Purdue to call the DEA; the company held off on doing so for years.


►  Staff Members Stopped School Shooter

A school shooting that left one student hospitalized and others scrambling out classroom windows in West Liberty, Ohio Friday morning could have been far worse if not for the heroics of staff members who stopped the shooter and had him pinned down when police arrived, authorities say. The shooter, a 17-year-old senior, used a shotgun and intended to harm more than the student who was hit, Champaign County Sheriff Matthew Melvin say. The shooter is in custody facing a preliminary charge of felonious assault, with an initial hearing scheduled Monday, the AP reports. Authorities identified the victim as 16-year-old junior Logan Cole, who was hospitalized in Columbus in critical condition. He was a random victim, the sheriff says.

“As tragic as this situation is, we are very, very fortunate,“ prosecutor Kevin Talebi says. “It could have been much worse. I’m very, very thankful that, as bad as it is, it didn’t escalate to a much more tragic incident.“ The West Liberty High School shooting, in a common hallway, was reported just as classes were getting underway at the school complex, which is surrounded by farm fields 45 miles northwest of Columbus. The shooter had no significant disciplinary issues, Superintendent Kraig Hissong says. Cole’s family asked for prayers for him and for the shooter and his family. “We are certain they have been deeply hurt as well,“ they said in a statement. “We are confident that God has a purpose and plan through this tragedy.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  16 Killed in Fiery Italy School Bus Crash

A bus carrying Hungarian school students home from a skiing trip to France slammed into a highway barrier in northern Italy Friday night and caught fire, killing at least 16 people, police say. Out of 39 survivors, 26 were injured, some seriously, the AP reports. No other vehicles were involved in the crash, and it wasn’t clear why the bus hit the overpass support column on the highway near Verona just before midnight, a police spokesman says. Reuters reports that police say the bus was carrying teenage students, mostly boys, along with teachers and parents.

RAI state radio said a Slovenian truck driver who was traveling behind the bus had noticed a problem with one of the bus wheels and tried to alert the driver, but the driver didn’t react quickly enough. Some of the students were thrown clear when the bus crashed, while others were trapped in the burning vehicle. A Hungarian diplomat says a sports teacher saved some of the students by returning to the flames to drag them out, suffering burn injuries in the process, the BBC reports.


►  Obama Targets Al-Qaeda in Final Airstrike of Presidency

On Thursday evening, an Air Force B-52 bomber and two armed drones hit an al-Qaeda training camp in Syria with 14 bombs and missiles, killing more than 100 fighters, according to the Pentagon. USA Today reports it was the final known counterterrorism operation carried out by the Obama administration, and the Telegraph calls it the last “major” airstrike under President Obama. The Pentagon announced the airstrike Friday, the New York Times reports. US officials say they have a “high level” of confidence that no civilians were killed in the airstrike.

The Shaykh Sulayman Training Camp in Idlib near Syria’s border with Turkey had been operating since 2013. In the wake of the airstrike, the group that operated the camp, formerly known as the Nusra Front, said they had broken with al-Qaeda and were involved in operations against Syrian President Assad. The Pentagon disagrees. A Pentagon spokesperson says the airstrike “disrupts training operations and discourages hard-line Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with al-Qaeda.“


►  Defeated Gambian Leader Agrees to Give Up Power

Gambia’s defeated leader Yahya Jammeh announced early Saturday he has decided to relinquish power, after hours of last-ditch talks with regional leaders and the threat by a regional military force to make him leave. “I believe it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed,“ Jammeh said in a brief statement on state television. He promised that “all the issues we currently face will be resolved peacefully.“ He did not give details on any deal that was struck, and it was not immediately clear when Adama Barrow, who beat Jammeh in last month’s election, would return from neighboring Senegal to take power, the AP reports.

But the speech signaled an end to the political crisis that has seen this tiny West African nation caught between two men claiming to be in charge. Late Friday, Barrow declared that “the rule of fear” in Gambia had ended. Jammeh, who fired seized power in a 1994 coup, had earlier agreed to step down but demanded amnesty for any crimes he may have committed while in power and wanted to stay in Gambia, in his home village of Kanilai, Marcel Alain de Souza, chairman of the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, said Friday. Those demands were not acceptable to ECOWAS, he added. In his address early Saturday, Jammeh expressed “infinite gratitude to all Gambians” and said not a single person had been killed during the crisis.


►  Japan Asks Worn-Out Workers to Take Afternoon to Chill

Workers in Japan put in notoriously long hours, and the country appears to be paying a price: stressed out workers and resulting health problems, including suicide. As the Japan Times notes, there’s even a word for it: “karoshi,“ or “death by overwork.“ Now Japan is designating the last Friday of every month as “Premium Friday,“ with employees encouraged to sign out at 3pm—and maybe do a little shopping to jump-start their weekend and possibly a lagging economy, reports the London Times. The move isn’t mandatory for companies, but the nation’s biggest business lobby is on board and encouraging its members to take part when it launches on February 24.

It doesn’t help that most workers in Japan tend to use only half their allotted paid time off, and that an estimated one in eight work 50 hours or more—the highest percentage among G-7 nations. So it remains unclear whether Premium Friday will be a sufficient break for the overworked, or even attainable for those who must squeeze in their work at other times. Fortune is skeptical, calling it an “essentially meaningless” scheme. It quotes a critic who says the bigger issue to focus on is efficiency to cut down on those long work weeks, which are “still considered a virtue.“ Another problem is that Japan has lots of small, family-run businesses where shortened hours could be a problem, notes the BBC.

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