Fizer Selected to Attend Sarajevo Symposium on Post-Conflict Transitions

The Free Press WV

Sarah Fizer, senior music education major from Martinsburg, WV, has been selected to attend the International Peace & Security Institute’s (IPSI) Sarajevo Symposium on Post-Conflict Transitions July 07-22 in Sarajevo, Bosnia. In partnership with the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, the 2018 Sarajevo Symposium will engage participants in contemporary theory and practice of post-conflict political transitions in the Former Yugoslavia and other countries.

During the two weeks, Fizer will train with experts to gain a deep understanding of post-conflict strategies in the areas of governance, security, justice, and reconciliation. Attendees learn what approaches have been successful, which failed, and which are beyond the reach of policy.

“The Sarajevo Symposium was interesting to me as it provided the opportunity to study post-conflict traditions in a location that has first-hand experiences with the dissolving of the Former Yugoslavia,” said Fizer. “Bosnia will be a great place to learn about these traditions and practices, as it will allow me to actually talk to the people that have lived through these policy changes.”

Those who complete the symposium receive a Post-Graduate Certificate in Managing Post-Conflict Transitions upon completion of the course. Attendees may choose to undertake additional rigorous assignments in order to earn a Post-Graduate Certificate in Managing Post-Conflict Transitions with Distinction. Fizer is still unsure as to which track she will pursue.

Students are selected by supplying a résumé or curriculum vitae and a short essay on why the student is interested in attending the Symposium and what he/she intends to do with the training received. IPSI strives to attract a diverse and accomplished student body from across the globe, especially peace and security leaders from conflict and post-conflict countries.

In gaining a cross-sectoral perspective on post-conflict transitions, Fizer hopes to expand her understanding of the subject in preparation for graduate school.

“I plan to use my training at the Sarajevo Symposium to help broaden my understanding of post-conflict traditions in preparation for beginning my Master of Arts in Peace and Justice after graduation from Wesleyan,” said Fizer.

Fizer, who serves as a WE LEAD Human Rights Team Leader, notes her work with the Center for Community Engagement & Leadership Development (CCE) as a major inspiration for seeking out this symposium.

“My work in the WE LEAD Human Rights Team has been a huge influence in piquing my interest in global affairs and looking deeper into world conflict strategies and traditions,” she commented. “Discussions based around human rights and recently around the global refugee crisis has made me want to learn more about what policies and changes can be made to help people in all nations.”

IPSI’s methodology stresses hand-on experiential learning where representatives from the first world, the developing world, and conflict and post-conflict countries have the opportunity to actually make decisions faced by current leaders. Through formal lectures, site visits, and interactive simulations and workshops, attendees gain the skills necessary to strengthen legitimate institutions and governance to provide security, justice, and development and break cycles of violence; skills that are instrumental in ensuring long-term stability and preventing conflicts from recurring.

Fizer notes her Wesleyan education as an important factor in helping her find her true passion.

“Wesleyan has opened many doors for me throughout my career, and being able to attend this symposium would not be a reality if it were not for the amazing faculty and staff that have helped me every step of the way,” she said. “The experiences I have had at Wesleyan have helped me find something that I am truly passionate about, and my mentors have gone above and beyond in making sure students have real opportunities to achieve their goals.”

In addition to WE LEAD, Fizer is a Wesleyan Service Scholar and Resident Director, as well as a member of the concert chorale, concert band, jazz band, marching band, Sigma Alpha Iota, and Kappa Delta Pi.

Advocates Aim to Show SNAP Curbs Unpopular

Advocates hope a public meeting today at the West Virginia Capitol will show that policies making it tougher to get federal food assistance are not popular.

House Bill 4001 would add work and other new requirements for those applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said punishing folks seeking public aid might seem popular to some lawmakers, but kicking real people off the program will spark resistance.

“You’re not going to have very many people coming out and talking about what a great idea it is to take $3.87 a day in federal food assistance, taking that away from people,” DiStefano said.

The public hearing for the bill was scheduled to start at 8:30 on Monday. Supporters say they want to push SNAP recipients to get jobs if they are able, and so reduce government spending.

DiStefano argued that a nine-county work rules pilot project did little to increase employment, but cost the state about $13 million in federal funds in 2017.

The Free Press WV
Most states have removed an asset test for SNAP applicants.

In dealing with a state budget that continues to be strained, the Republican-led Legislature has looked to cuts in government assistance, while also pushing for reduced taxes on businesses and little change in public employee pay and benefits.

But DiStefano pointed out the SNAP program is federally funded, so every SNAP dollar comes from the outside and is spent in a West Virginia community. He said it makes no economic sense to turn that money away.

“No one wins,” he said. “Communities don’t win when the one grocery store in town has to shut down because the federal SNAP dollars that were keeping it in the black were pulled out. That hurts everybody.“

Supporters say the bill would reduce waste and fraud by people abusing the system. DiStefano argued that very few people cheat the system to avoid work.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. There are 81,000 working West Virginians who rely on SNAP benefits - 34,000 senior citizens,” he said. “When the lawmakers take a look at it from that perspective, I think the politics shift.“

HB 4001 is up for discussion in the House Judiciary Committee. More information is online at

~~  Dan Hayman ~~


The Free Press WV

First Lady Cathy Justice will introduce her 2018 signature Blenko glass piece during a special Valentine’s Day event at the Culture Center. The event will take place on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. in the Culture Center Great Hall and will be followed by a public reception.

This limited-edition, West Virginia artisan piece is a collaborative effort between First Lady Justice, Blenko Glass and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

“I am honored to have had the chance to work with Blenko and Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith to create a one-of-a-kind glass piece for West Virginians to enjoy,” First Lady Justice said. “As we designed this pitcher, it was my intention to showcase Blenko’s stunning glass work, as well as the beautiful shape of our great state.”

For her signature artisan piece, First Lady Justice chose a traditional Blenko crystal crackle pitcher featuring an etched gold image of West Virginia surrounded by a laurel wreath by Huntington artist Jennifer Gonze. Only 100 pitchers were created, and the base of each numbered piece features First Lady Justice’s signature.

The limited-edition pitchers sell for $73 each and will be available for purchase in the Culture Center Great Hall immediately following the First Lady’s introduction event. Light refreshments will be provided, and the event is open to the public.

Governor’s Mansion, Charleston WV 25305 – phone: 304.558.3588 – fax: 304.558.0066

PEIA public hearings on 17-month “freeze” proposal begin Monday

The Free Press WV

The state Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board begins three nights of public hearings Monday in Charleston in connection with a proposed freezing of the provisions of the current year health insurance plan for state workers.

The request to freeze the plan is coming from Governor Jim Justice and the House of Delegates in connection with concerns expressed by teachers and other state workers in recent months. The loudest of those concerns coming from teachers who have focused walkouts, walk-ins and informational picketing on PEIA.

The finance board approved the 2018-2019 plan at a meeting back in December. It’s provisions are scheduled to begin July 01. PEIA Executive Director Ted Cheatham said the new plan keeps the same program in place with a $29 million allocation from the state.

“He (the governor’s office) has provided an additional $29 million and we’ve adjusted the budget plan to reflect that additional $29 million in revenue so that’s what we’re going to take out to public hearings. That would really result in no change from where we are today,” Cheatham told MetroNews.

State workers faced premium increases in the new plan with decisions by the finance board to reduce the number of salary tiers and base some premiums on total family income. The Go365 plan has also been controversial.

In a January 29 news release, Governor Jim Justice called for the penalties to be dropped from the Go365. The premium penalty was $25 a month for those who don’t earn a minimum number of points.

“We needed to get the $25 per month penalty removed,” Justice said. “I understand the challenges our families are struggling with today and this was the right thing to do.”

A few days later, Justice and House Speaker Tim Armstead said the total family income provision should be revisited.

“We have heard loudly and clearly from our teachers and state employees that they are worried about the effects of these proposed PEIA changes, and have been actively exploring ways to offset costs,” Armstead said.

But since then Justice and Armstead come out in favor of freezing the current PEIA plan for 17 months while a long-term fix for PEIA can be found. The House passed a resolution urging the freeze. The PEIA Finance Board will meeting February 20 to consider the comments from the public hearing and take a vote on the freeze request.

Cheatham said he doesn’t know how much interest this week’s public hearings will draw in Charleston, Morgantown and Beckley.

“PEIA is staying steady for another year–so I don’t know if they are going to have much to say about PEIA, except to ask the board to go out and seek a long-term funding solution,” Cheatham said.

PEIA released the following information about the hearings:

Monday, February 12, 2018 — Charleston
University of Charleston,
Geary Student Union Ballroom,
2300 MacCorkle Ave., SE

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 — Morgantown
West Virginia University
The Erickson Alumni Center
One Alumni Drive

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 — Beckley
Tamarack Conference Center,
One Tamarack Place

Hearings will be held from 6 – 8 p.m. in each location. Registration will begin at 5:30. Those requesting to speak at the hearing must indicate that at registration. Speakers will be limited to 5 minutes each and comments are required to stay on the topic of the public hearing.

~~  Jeff Jenkins ~~

Alderson Broaddus University Announces Undergraduate Major in Cyber Security

The Free Press WV

Alderson Broaddus University announced its newest undergraduate major, Cyber Security on Thursday, February 08, 2018 during a press conference held on the Alderson Broaddus campus.

The Cyber Security program will prepare students for the multi-disciplinary aspects of securing software, networks, web and mobile systems.

In addition to the hard work of the faculty and staff at Alderson Broaddus, Congressman David McKinley and the University Alliance Advisory Board were integral to beginning this program.

“After we hosted a cyber security forum in August of 2016, our office brought CSRA and Alderson Broaddus University together to establish this new cyber security program. A 2016 Cisco study showed that there are 209,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in America,” said Rep. McKinley. “As West Virginia’s economy continues growing and diversifying, this type of workforce training is critical to bring these jobs to the state. With this new program, Alderson Broaddus is now leading the charge.”

Curriculum for the program was developed to fit the current and future needs of industries including: financial and healthcare as well as to help criminal justice agencies incarcerate cyber criminals.

“It has been a pleasure to create a program in cyber security at Alderson Broaddus University; the rapidity in which we met the need expressed by Congressman McKinley for this program speaks to how nimble private education can be to industry demands. It is almost impossible to pick up a paper or listen to the news without reading or hearing about an incident involving a cyber-crime,” said Provost / Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Joan Propst. “Our faculty have the expertise in this field and have worked arduously to put together a major that will serve our students and prepare graduates in a field where the demand is increasing. In the development of the curriculum, we met with leaders in industry and have created a powerful advisory board of representatives from law enforcement, health care and the computer science industry; their input into the program has been invaluable and we will continue that relationship as we continue to evolve this program to meet these demands.”

“The Associate’s Degree in Cyber Security option allows industry to hire students with basic, but up-to- date knowledge,” said Dr. Ross Brittain, Dean of the College of Science Technology & Mathematics.  “Associate’s degree graduates can then get certifications or training specific to their employer’s needs. The employer may also provide funds for the students to finish their Bachelor’s degree or pursue a Master’s Degree.”

For more information on the Cyber Security major visit

West Virginia Senate Nixes Abortion Amendment Change

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Senate has voted against revising a proposed state constitutional amendment that would authorize lawmakers to restrict abortion rights.

The resolution advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee would require two-thirds passage by both the Senate and House and a voter referendum to take effect.

The resolution says: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.“

The amendment, rejected 22-7 on Thursday, would guarantee the right to abortions to rape or incest victims or women who need them to save their lives.

Separately, the House Health and Human Resources Committee has advanced legislation barring most Medicaid-funded abortions.

State data shows 1,560 Medicaid-funded abortions last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 upheld women’s constitutional rights to abortion.

Justice tells teachers insurance terms will be frozen

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim Justice tells a gathering of teachers and other public employees in West Virginia that the terms of their health insurance coverage should remain unchanged in the next fiscal year.

Teachers have held rallies to protest low pay, small proposed raises and expected insurance rate hikes starting July 01.

Speaking Tuesday evening in Lewisburg, Justice says their Public Employees Insurance Agency coverage and premiums are far better than they could find now in the commercial marketplace.

His chief of staff, Mike Hall, says he’s talked to the head of PEIA and its finance board will “freeze it, in other words keep what you have today ... for the next fiscal year.“

West Virginia’s Senate passed legislation to give teachers annual pay raises of 1 percent over a five-year period.

Governor and First Lady Justice issue statement on death of coal miner in Barbour County

The Free Press WV

Governor Jim and First Lady Cathy Justice issued the following statement after learning of the passing of a coal miner in Barbour County.

“News this morning that West Virginia has lost a member of our coal mining community is heartbreaking. Please join us as we pray for the family, friends and co-workers of Leonard W. Griffith.”

West Virginia governor takes new approach to opioid epidemic

The Free Press WV

Citing a drug overdose fatality rate that leads the nation, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is taking a new approach to tackling the opioid crisis that is “eating us alive.”

Justice told a news conference Monday the state doesn’t have enough funding to fight the battle “on all fronts.” So, he first wants to come up with a model for two still-undetermined counties that “solves the riddle” before deploying it statewide.

One county will be in the southern part of the state and the other either from the north or the Eastern Panhandle.

Justice has named Dr. Michael Brumage as new director of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Brumage is an assistant dean in the West Virginia University School of Medicine and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

West Virginia House OKs carbon monoxide detectors in schools

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s House of Delegates has passed a bill to require carbon monoxide detectors in all schools and daycare centers.

The 95-1 vote Friday comes two months after a carbon monoxide leak was detected in a rooftop heating unit for the cafeteria at a South Charleston elementary school. No one was injured in that leak, which prompted Kanawha County school officials to have 500 detectors installed in schools countywide.

Hancock County Republican Pat McGeehan cast the lone vote against the bill. Three House members did not vote.

The bill now goes before the state Senate.

Judge pauses land acquisition for Mountain Valley pipelines

The Free Press WV

A federal judge has halted a company’s plan to take possession of various lands in Virginia for a controversial pipeline project until it can demonstrate that the landowners will be adequately compensated.

The judge on Wednesday said Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is entitled to condemn the land it needs, but that can’t take immediate possession of most of the properties in question until the court is assured that just compensation will be paid.

Mountain Valley had hoped take possession of the properties by Thursday to meet its preferred schedule for the pipeline, which would carry natural gas across West Virginia and Virginia.

Mountain Valley had reached agreements to acquire most of the land for the project, but it sued nearly 300 property owners who refused to give up their lands.

Jason Frame Selected to Lead the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis

The Free Press WV

Jason Frame was named director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis by Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health.  Dr. Gupta will oversee the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis.

“I have confidence in Mr. Frame’s ability to lead the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis, and to help position this office in a manner that is ready to meet of needs of patients who may medically benefit from cannabis,” said Dr. Gupta.  “We still have a lot of work to do in establishing the process for setting up dispensaries, growers, processors, and laboratories, and I believe Mr. Frame is ready to meet that challenge.”

The Medical Cannabis Act was signed into law on April 19, 2017, which allows cannabis to be used for certified medical use by West Virginia residents with a serious medical condition.  Patient and caregiver cards will not be issued until July 01, 2019.

“I am honored to be selected as the director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis,” said Frame.  “My goal is to lead the state’s medical cannabis program in a responsible and deliberative manner to help ensure health care providers have another option in extending compassionate care for those who are living with a serious illness, especially in situations where medical cannabis may provide much needed relief.”

Prior to his hiring as the director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis, Frame worked for DHHR’s Office of Environmental Health Services for five years.  He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Charleston. 

Frame is expected to be officially introduced at the upcoming Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting set for February 6, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at the University of Charleston’s Ballroom. 

Information regarding medical cannabis in West Virginia is available online at

Study: Racist messages land on campuses in surging numbers

The Free Press WV

White supremacist groups have targeted college campuses in surging numbers since President Donald Trump’s election, emboldened by political and racial tensions over immigration and other issues, according to a group that monitors extremism and bigotry.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a report Thursday that said racist fliers, banners and stickers were found on college campuses 147 times in fall 2017, a more than threefold increase over the 41 cases reported one year before.

Leaders of the New York-based nonprofit attribute the uptick to a small number of white nationalist groups seeking to recruit members on college campuses that have ramped up their efforts as the nation’s politics grow increasingly polarized.

“Whatever momentum white supremacists felt they had last fall, they certainly are redoubling their efforts,” Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said in an interview.

The league tracked 333 cases since Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. Since then, it has seen increased activity from groups celebrating what Segal called “the divisiveness that was a hallmark of the presidential campaign.”

Dozens of U.S. college campuses have been confronted by far-right groups brandishing racist views over the last year, including an August 2017 rally that drew hundreds of torch-carrying white supremacists to the University of Virginia. Protests there turned deadly the next day, when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Trump drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress after he insisted that there was “blame on both sides.”

Other rallies followed, including a November demonstration at the University of Texas at Austin led by 25 masked members of a white supremacist group, including some carrying torches and Texas flags.

“What we’re dealing with on college and university campuses is a reflection of the times. It’s regrettable, it’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2018,” said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents chiefs of nearly 1,800 schools.

Although rallies and speeches have drawn the public’s attention, most of the cases tracked by the Anti-Defamation League are quieter efforts from groups that secretly distribute fliers on campus and then leave before they’re found.

Nearly half of the 346 cases tracked since September 2016, for example, have been blamed on the white supremacist group Identity Evropa, whose fliers with messages such as “Protect Your Heritage” have been discovered at universities from New Jersey to California.

In the past month alone, racist fliers have been found at the University of South Carolina and the University of Vermont, and anti-immigration fliers tied to a neo-Nazi group were found at American University in Washington, D.C.

Colleges in Texas have been targeted most frequently, according to the new report, with 61 cases since September 2016. California followed with 43 cases, while Pennsylvania had 18 and Florida had 17.

Schools have responded in a variety of ways. Some sharply condemn hate speech on campus, while others ignore it to avoid drawing attention to white supremacists. It’s often a fine line for colleges that aim to balance free speech with the safety of their students.

Many schools have grappled with whether to allow white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer to speak on campus, including some that now face free-speech lawsuits from his supporters for turning him away.

“Institutions have to contend with legal requirements, practical considerations and moral obligations, and they will respond differently depending on the incident,” Hartle said.

At the University of California, San Diego, for example, members of Identity Evropa reportedly interrupted an ethnic studies class and harassed students on Jan. 11, the report said. The leader of Identity Evropa, Patrick Casey, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

Segal, of the Anti-Defamation League, says numbers are higher in Texas and California because those states house active members from white supremacist groups. He said the numbers don’t necessarily reflect higher numbers of white supremacists at schools in those states.

A total of 212 schools have been targeted since fall 2016, ranging from top Ivy League universities to small community colleges, the report found. Segal says white supremacists typically target schools where they’re likely to stir a strong reaction.

“They very much rely on the surrounding media attention,” he said. “But I think they also hope to reach younger people who might be disaffected, who might be attracted to their message and swell their ranks and secure their future.”

Amtrak train headed to Greenbrier congressional retreat hits garbage truck

The Free Press WV

An chartered Amtrak train traveling from Washington, D.C. to White Sulphur Springs with Republican members of Congress on it struck a garbage truck near Charlottesville, Virginia Wednesday morning.

GOP members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives were heading to the Greenbrier Resort for a Republican retreat.

Amtrak said none of the passengers or members of the crew were injured.

According to various reports, one of the two people in the garbage truck was pronounced dead at the scene.

A second person was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

West Virginia Second District Congressman Alex Mooney was the only West Virginia elected official on board.

Both Rep. David McKinley and Rep. Evan Jenkins tweeted they were not on the train.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said on MetroNews “Talkline” she was flying with Vice President Mike Pence to the retreat.

West Virginia plan urges drug limits, more treatment

The Free Press WV

State health officials have sent to Governor Jim Justice and the Legislature their final plan for confronting the drug crisis killing hundreds of West Virginians each year, with a dozen major recommendations and cautioning there are “no quick fixes.“

They recommend limiting initial opioid prescriptions, increasing oversight to stop inappropriate painkiller prescribing and requiring all emergency responders to carry overdose antidotes.

The Department of Health and Human Resources also calls for expanding public awareness that addiction is a treatable disease, increasing treatment options for all patients and more diversion of criminal drug case defendants to treatment programs.

The report posted online at calls for expanded support for families and better access to contraceptives for people with drug disorders.

Overdose deaths increased to 884 statewide in 2016.

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