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Senator Capito’s Weekly Video Address to West Virginians, 02.13.2015

Senator Capito discusses Procter & Gamble’s Berkeley County announcement and the EPA’s refusal to hold a public hearing on climate rules in West Virginia.

The McKinley Capitol Report: 02.13.15

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Getting Americans to Work

On Wednesday, the House sent a bipartisan jobs bill to President Obama’s desk. The legislation passed this week would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline project, which the White House has delayed for 2,336 days. If approved, the pipeline would support an estimated 42,000 American jobs and generate billions in economic activity. Despite the benefits, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill.

The oil Keystone XL would transport will travel to market one way or another and Americans should be the ones reaping the benefits. Transporting oil by pipeline is safer, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly than any other existing option.

The Administration has run out of excuses not to let this project go forward and I urge the President to sign this bill into law when it hits his desk.


Science Bowl

I had the pleasure of attending the National Science Bowl competition in Morgantown where two of our First District schools moved on to the finals. You can read more about it here. They will be taking part in the finals in Washington, DC in April. Best of luck!


Towards Peace of Mind on Mental Health

This week, the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations held a hearing about the mental health programs our federal government runs.

Shockingly, the Substanc e Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sends taxpayer dollars to groups that undermine their mission. One especially egregious grant went to a program who tells patients to stop using their medications. Watch the witness’s response here:


Educating the Next Generation of Engineers

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to address the American Society for Engineering Education meeting in Washington, DC. As the only engineer in Congress, it was a pleasure to meet with these educators.


Mountaineers Update

The Mountaineers were able to close out a two game losing streak with a 76-72 victory over Kansas State this past Wednesday. WVU squeezed by with the help of its young players, despite a poor second half.

Tomorrow, West Virginia hits the road to face off against a #14 ranked Iowa State. The team needs a solid win, to pull away in the big 12 standings. I’m looking forward to an exciting game and a shooting average above 50%!

Let’s Go, ‘Eers!


Happy President’s Day Weekend!

Monday, February 16, marks Presidents Day. The holiday began as a way of celebrating the birthday of our first president, George Washington. It has transformed over the years into a day to honor all who have held the office of the Presidency, past and president.

On this occasion, I want to draw attention to one president in particular, whose birthday is also this month. Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was instrumental in helping West Virginia achieve statehood. President Lincoln worked closely with Francis H. Pierpont and other West Virginia representatives to secure West Virginian statehood on June 20, 1863. While the Mountaineer struggle for statehood began before Lincoln’s presidency, it was under his leadership that statehood became official.

If you are ever in the Washington D.C. office please drop in and say hello. If you want an appointment just give my office a call at 202.225.4172, or submit a request on my website at www.mckinley.house.gov.
                                          The Gilmer Free Press

Nesting Season Has Begun

It may be mid-winter, but the nesting season for birds is under way. Great horned owls and bald eagles are already incubating eggs.

Smaller songbirds wait until spring to begin nesting. Those that use in cavities (and nest boxes) get a jump on nesting because cavities provide protection from cold temperatures, wind, rain and snow. These species typically begin nesting at least a few weeks before open-nesting birds of comparable size.

Among the backyard species that use natural cavities and nest boxes are bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and Carolina wrens. Only about 12% of North America’s birds nest in cavities because few species have the strong feet and disposition required to explore deep, dark nooks and crannies. It takes a fearless, acrobatic bird to explore cavities where predators may lurk.

The best way to attract cavity nesters is to place nest boxes in suitable habitat. For example, pastures, hayfields, cemeteries and golf courses are ideal for eastern bluebirds. Forest edges attract chickadees and titmice, and Carolina wrens often stay close to homes and sheds.

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The supply of natural cavities is limited so competition for these nest sites is intense. Because cavities provide protection from the elements, hole-nesters can begin nesting sooner than open-nesting birds. This means they often fledge their young before a major predator — tree climbing snakes — becomes active. Consequently, cavity-nesters usually have higher nest success than open-nesters.

Another advantage that cavity-nesters enjoy is that the young stay in the nest longer. Bluebirds and chickadees, for example, stay in the nest for 17 to 21 days. This compares to open-nesters such as cardinals and robins, which fledge at just 10 to 12 days of age. When cavity-nesters fledge, they are larger, stronger and can fly. It takes most open-nesters three or four days to get strong enough to fly after leaving the nest.

While it’s still too nasty to spend much free time outdoors, build a few boxes for backyard cavity-nesters. And get the kids and grandchildren involved.

A basic nest box measures four or five inches square (inside dimensions) and 10 to 12 inches high. The entrance hole should measure precisely an inch-and-a-half in diameter and be placed about an inch from the top. This hole size prevents bigger-bodied starlings from using the boxes. The front or side should flip open for easy cleaning.

Hang nest boxes five to six feet above the ground on a post protected from below by a predator baffle. The baffle is essential because unprotected nest boxes eventually become raccoon and snake feeders.

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind.

• Use three-quarters inch stock to insulate nests from spring chills and summer heat. Any untreated lumber will do, but exterior plywood is relatively inexpensive and weathers well.

• Assemble with galvanized screws to extend the life of the box.

• Put a shingle on the roof; it receives the greatest exposure and weathers faster than the sides. Do not paint the inside of the box.

• Extend the roof at least five inches over the front of the box to protect the hole from wind-blown rain and marauding paws. Drill four quarter-inch drain holes in the floor.

• Never put a perch on the outside of a box. Cavity-nesters have strong feet and easily cling to vertical wooden surfaces. A perch is an invitation to invasive house sparrows to use and defend the box.

• Finally, boxes should be in place by mid-March. Use plastic coated electrical wire to strap boxes to posts. Hang boxes so they will be shaded during hot summer afternoons, and orient the hole to the east to avoid prevailing winds and driving rain.

For detailed nest box plans for a variety of species, visit www.allaboutbirds.org and type “nest boxes” into the “Find” box.

Nest boxes can be purchased at wild bird stores and nature centers. And the Pennsylvania Game Commission also sells a variety of affordable nest boxes; a set of two bluebird boxes, for example, costs just $32, delivered. To order, call 1.814.355.4434, or visit www.pgc.state.pa.us and click on “Howard Nursery” from the “General Store” drop down menu and then select “Wildlife Homes Order Form.”

~~  Dr. Scott Shalaway 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 ~~

Things One Learned Comforting A Dying Person

At times, it felt like death was constantly blindsiding me.
Volunteering at hospice has changed that.

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On Tuesday, as I sat beside him, “Frank” died (not his real name). I didn’t notice his last breath, just a sudden stillness. I placed my hand near his mouth, to see if I could feel an exhalation, and when I didn’t, I touched him gently and said goodbye. Then I went to get the nurse, to record the time of death. Frank was 93, and while his death was expected, we didn’t expect it then. I had just seen his family out, and told them I’d sit with him. However, when it comes to death, I know that expectations are foolish.

As a Hospice volunteer, I spend every Tuesday with people who are dying. I cook their meals; hold their hands; read to them; I sing and I sit quietly. I tell them stories and I listen to theirs. I wipe their foreheads, when fever or illness makes them sweat; I listen as they struggle to come to terms with the end of their lives, and I laugh with many of them. As a volunteer, I do not provide any form of medical care, only comfort. It’s an honor and a privilege that I look forward to every week, and it’s changed me for the better, in more ways than I can count.

Three years ago, my mother spent three months at the local Hospice House, where I now volunteer. She had late stage Huntington’s Disease and had broken her elbow. It wasn’t a fatal injury, but she was done fighting her illness and chose to stop eating. Her body was frail, and she was grateful for the peace and quiet of Hospice House and the palliative care offered. I accepted her decision and visited every day. I was grateful for the respectful, tender care she received in hospice, though I resented death for taking her so young (67).

Death and I have a long and tangled history. My father was killed in a car accident when I was 10, and Huntington’s has plagued my family—claiming my grandmother, my 49-year-old aunt, and my mother—so far. Five years ago, my 43-year-old cousin was killed in a plane crash, just weeks after my aunt’s death and a month before a friend was killed in an accident. At times, it felt like death was constantly blindsiding me. Volunteering at hospice has changed that.

One of the primary goals at Hospice House is to treat every patient with the utmost respect. Hospice does not seek to extend nor shorten any patient’s life, but seeks to help each person remain as independent as possible in making end of life decisions, and as free from physical pain as is medically possible. End of life is where we begin. As a volunteer, I have a unique opportunity to stare death in the eyes each week, and not blink. I walk in those doors, eyes wide open- knowing that I will connect with wonderful people and I’ll have to say goodbye to them. There are few blindsides at hospice. The entire team is there to provide compassion, support and care, at the end of a person’s life. Inevitably, it’s hard when a patient is someone I know, or someone young- there will always be traumas, sudden deaths, and illness to remind us that life can change very suddenly, that life is precious.

Each week when I check the list of patients, I often choose to skip some details—including the diagnosis. I like to enter each room and allow that individual to show me who they are, and tell me what they need. I’ve learned that while there are similarities from patient to patient, there are also infinite details that make each person’s needs unique—cancer does not look the same on every person who has it; aging, illness, peace is experienced differently from person to person. Despite who they are, or how they’ve lived their lives, the end of life can be a vulnerable time, and I want to find whatever it is that will help them feel seen and heard. I have no way of knowing if the person I’m spending time with was a horrible parent, or miserable neighbor; I don’t know if they were a drug addict, teacher of the year, or a saint. I know that they are dying, and I love being part of the team of people who will help make that transition as peaceful and supportive as possible, whatever came before.

Over time there are a few things I’ve learned that impact how I approach my role as a volunteer:

1) When the end comes, loss is loss, and you can’t always prepare for it nor predict it. Frank was 93-years-old; his family knew that he would die soon. However, when he did, just minutes after they’d left his room, it was still a huge loss. I’ve seen patients “hold on,“ or remain in hospice for months, like my own mother, and others who died very quickly. I never say to patients or families: “see you next week;“ there’s no way to know if I will. I say, “I’ll be back next Tuesday.“ It’s hard to predict, and while many patients struggle to accept their death, family members deal with it in many different ways as well.

2) People are not always able to leave their conflicts at the door—but they should. It’s not easy for anyone to face their own mortality, but it can be much harder when family members bring conflict and unresolved issues along. I’ve heard so many patients share their distress, as those they love squabble over care issues, estate planning, and even funeral arrangements. Aside from the hospice social worker, other caregivers don’t get involved in these issues, but we have all seen the toll they can take on a person’s emotional wellbeing at the end of life.

3) So many mothers—whether they’re 30 or 100, want to hear: “thank you; you did a good job.“ I’ve sat with women who are dying, who have young children as well as those who have outlived their children. I understand that relationships are complex, and it’s not a given that every mother did a good job, but I am humbled by that need and the peace I’ve seen on patient’s faces, after they hear that message. Those were my final words—just minutes before my mother smiled, and took her last breath. In the end, I believe we all want to hear that we mattered and did our best.

4) Mean people die, funny people die, religious people, angry people, and good people die. Whether someone has lived a wonderful life and feels cheated to be dying too soon, or they’ve lived a long life and are ready, or their life has been difficult and this is just one more short straw, hospice care offers an opportunity to ease that final stage.

If I can share some humor, or discuss news and current events, if a person needs to hear me read psalms, or have me sit quietly, then that’s what I do. Hospice care is not there to judge or give one-stop care; each patient is unique in their history, their needs and the way we care for them. I love that challenge. There are patients I’ve only known for hours, and those I will always remember—people who have touched my life, and allowed me to share a sacred time in theirs. Each week I look death in the eye and I’m reminded just how fragile life is and how my actions can help make the final transition a little bit better—I am reminded, how to live.

This is a poem that a special patient shared with me. R. is younger, and has had some hard times. Through it all, he’s written poetry—pages and pages. However, when he found out he would be going into Hospice, R threw all of his work in the garbage. He was able to recall a few of the poems, and rewrote them on a small note pad. He shared them with me, and I was deeply touched by the depths of his feelings. He then asked me to share his with others, so that “he’ll be remembered.“ R gave me permission to share this poem and his last name, here:

I’m on a street corner standing alone,
Another windless night without a telephone.
In the darkened air I’ve remained for years,
Wondering if I will be able to hide all these tears.
Though the tears that are shed, are not really known,
For the wind that will dry them has already blown.
If the tears are cried and the voices still call,
Will the tears be dried in the next early fall?
Or will the tears remain, forever each night,
And will the tears that are seen become everyone’s fright?
But as the wind will pass and the tears be dried,
Will there not be someplace else someone has not yet cried.


© R. Greenberg, hospice patient (with permission)

~~  Dawn Q. Landau ~~

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