Critics Attack “Bailout of Dirty, Expensive” Power Plant

The Monongahela Power Company is asking ratepayers to pay more to bail out a Marion County power plant that critics charge is dirty, already expensive and damaging to the air, land and water.

Customers currently pay a bit above the market rate for the Grant Town Power Plant because the small power station was designed to burn waste coal – low-energy gob from old mines.

But Jim Kotcon, chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, says Monongahela Power is asking the Public Service Commission to make ratepayers pay even more to keep an especially dirty power plant running, and keep its operators out of bankruptcy.

The Free Press WV
The Grant Town Power Plant is in the middle of a contentious argument at the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

“Mon Power really doesn’t need that generation, and they certainly shouldn’t have to force their customers to pay higher rates in order to keep that plant on-line,“ he states.

Monongahela Power argues that it does need the generating capacity and that Grant Town is helping to clean up an environmental issue.

Kotcon argues the environmental benefit is “marginal at best,“ and Grant Town is one of most expensive and polluting power sources in West Virginia.

Kotcon says if the PSC agrees to another in what is becoming a series of the coal plant bailouts, ratepayers would pay about twice the rate that wholesale electricity could be bought for off the grid. In return, he says they sustain a power plant that has some of the highest air pollution numbers in the West Virginia.

“Some of these gob piles are getting cleaned up, but at the same time they’re creating new mines that require reclamation,” he stresses. “In addition the ash leads to leaching of salts and heavy metals and other problems going into the water.“

The fly ash from Grant Town is being applied to mine remediation sites to reduce acid mine drainage.

But Kotcon points out the ash from gob is high in heavy metals, which are free to leach into the surface water from the old mines. He says there are cheaper, cleaner options that are less of a risk than the already subsidized Grant Town plant.

“Even at that inflated price, they are on the verge of bankruptcy,” Kotcon points out. “It is certainly not one that is competitive, given how cheap natural gas or wind power or even solar power would be.“

Grant Town supporters say closing the power plant would be hard on the community and the 170 employees. The proposal would raise the cost of power from the plant by 14 percent.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

HEPC Reports Increase In Student Success Rates Following Education Reform

The Free Press WV

More Mountain State students are succeeding in college thanks, in part, to an overhaul in the way entry-level courses are taught. Earlier today during a meeting of the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), state officials announced that recent efforts to reform developmental, or “remedial,” education are helping more students pass first-year math and English courses.

Historically, one in four students at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities has been required to take developmental math or English classes because their high school grade point averages (GPAs) or entrance exam scores were below the threshold at which students are considered ready for college-level work. These courses, which typically do not count toward a degree, often lead to students’ dropping out of college.

“In the past, developmental education too often has led to a dead end for students,” Dr. Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor, said. “It’s discouraging, because not only are they taking and paying for classes that don’t count toward their degrees, but they often are being asked to re-learn information at a snail’s pace. Our new model of administering remediation allows students to catch up quickly and maintain momentum toward earning a college diploma.”

Working closely with Complete College America, HEPC and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System (CTCS) have worked with the state’s public colleges and universities to redesign developmental education using a “co-requisite model.” The new format provides students who have low GPAs or test scores with extra help, such as required tutoring or extra lab classes, while simultaneously allowing them to complete college-level coursework that counts toward their degrees. West Virginia is one of just five states to implement the model across the entire public higher education system.

Data presented during the HEPC meeting showed that the redesign has resulted in a major boost for course completion rates. For example, at Fairmont State University, the number of students completing entry-level math jumped from 28.1 percent to 81.8 percent after the school switched to providing co-requisite courses. Similarly, pass rates in English at West Liberty University jumped from 46.4 percent to 90.7 percent. And institutions across West Virginia are seeing similarly impressive results.

“Ultimately, we expect this to have a major impact on college graduation rates,” Dr. Corley Dennison, HEPC’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said. “Instead of completely re-teaching a subject to students who may only need a bit of extra help, we are able to enroll them in the credit-bearing class and then pinpoint areas in which their knowledge and skills are lacking. That saves our students time, money and unnecessary frustration — and reduces barriers that may have previously prevented them from earning a degree.”

Dr. Hill said the new model is also a more cost-efficient method of offering classes.

“Previously, our colleges and universities had to dedicate faculty, space and class time for an entire semester to conduct high-school-level courses in order to prepare students for college work,” Dr. Hill said. “Now we are integrating the developmental work into first-year college courses and utilizing existing campus services, such as tutoring and faculty office hours, to offer extra support for the students who need it.”

The CTCS was one of the first higher education systems in the nation to test the co-requisite model of developmental education. The model is now nationally recognized as a best practice in state higher education policy.

Alzheimer’s Disease Was Highlighted On Longest Day Of The Year

The Free Press WV

With the longest day of the year upon us, many are thankful for the extra daylight hours; but for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, every day can seem like the longest day of the year.

That is why the West Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alpha Omicron Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority have come together to raise awareness and provide support for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their families.

“The Longest Day is really an opportunity to shine a light on Alzheimer’s,” said Christy Day, vice president of Alpha Omricon Omega. “We are hoping that people and families suffering from Alzheimer’s can come and share their stories and give a sense of hope to those who may not be as far along on the journey.”

Day said she has a personal history with the disease, as her father suffered from it.

“My father had dementia and when we first realized what was going on it was devastating,” Day said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 39 percent of residential care community members had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, in nursing homes that number rose to 50 percent. Alzheimer’s disease was responsible for 93,541 deaths in 2014.

West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association member Nikole Kinder said over 37,000 people in West Virginia alone suffer from the disease.

“This disease is truly something that affects your whole family,” Kinder said. “Family members have to reduce work hours, take on extra stress, stretch their finances, and be a caregiver.”

Kinder said the 37,000 people suffering from Alzheimer’s amounts to about 107,000 caregivers, most likely a family member, that are usually unpaid.

Day said the goal of the event is simply to help the community understand that there are resources to support families dealing with this disease, and that they do not have to go on the journey alone.

Day said experiencing the disease for the first time with her father was a terrifying ordeal.

“One of the first signs we experienced was that he didn’t realize my sister had passed,” Day said. “Instead of cowering in our fear, we realized it wasn’t going to get better. Our family worked together to come up with a plan, and that is my advice.”

Day said the situation can be tough, but self-pity will not help anyone.

“You are where you are, whether it be fair or not fair,” Day said. “Get some help and get a plan because you are going to be better off in the long run.”

The event will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Grace Bible Church on Kanawha Boulevard.

Families affected by the disease will have a chance to get together to sing and give personal testimonies and advice. Information about Alzheimer’s disease will also be presented.

Little Kanawha Trail Group Hopes To Shine Big Light on Little Kanawha River

The Free Press WV

The evolution of the kayak and the exploding popularity of the personalized craft for fishing is a perfect fit for West Virginia.  Public interest groups are using the groundswell of kayak activity as a catalyst to spotlight some of West Virginia’s smaller rivers which for years had been hidden and largely neglected.

We’ve reported in recent months on MetroNews about the successful efforts to resurrect the Coal River, the Tug Fork, Tygart, and Cheat Rivers.  Others are following suit with great work happening in places like the Guyandotte and the Little Kanawha.

“I know some of these other river trails have definitely been a huge inspiration to us,” said Kathy Gilbert, Executive Director of the Little Kanawha River Trail. “They have definitely given us great guidelines with their cleanups and some of them have really nice amenities like campgrounds and access.  It’s definitely increased the use of the river.”

Kathy is a native West Virginian and for many years left the state to work.  She’s home now and saw the opportunity to create a tourist attraction in her hometown of Glenville and decided to get involved.

“We formed to increase tourism and usage of boaters on our river,” she said. “From I-79 coming toward Glenville there are four public access points already. We designed a brochure to guide kayakers and boaters down the river.”

The organization formed two years ago with high ambitions.  The group has already started volunteer cleanups of the waterway and is working on a major access point int he town of Glenville.   An old building along the river was purchased and razed by the local Economic Development Authority.   The goal now is to create a major access point in town to draw visitors.

“We wanted a nice place for the boaters to get on the river, rather than just an eyesore of a building,” she said.

The project has become more ambitious with the interest from a growing number of volunteers.  The local economic development authority has put some more money into the access project and the plan is to create not only a walk down access, but also a ramp for motorized craft as well.

Fishing on the Little Kanawha River is strong, the waterway recently produced a new state record musky.  The river also has an added bonus that other volunteer organizations haven’t enjoyed, the water quality is already in good shape.

“We have a nice, healthy river,” Gilbert explained. “Our biology students at Glenville State have partnered with us and done baseline tests on the water quality.  We want to keep the river clean and keep it healthy and open for fishermen and tourists.”

The growing organization started in Gilmer County, but hopes to expand to the entire length of the river from Burnsville to Parkersburg in the coming years.    You can learn more about the Little Kanawha River Trail on their Facebook page. 

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~


The Free Press WV

  • Wal-Mart Plays It Cool Despite Whole Foods-Amazon Deal:  It’s hardly a game changer. Amazon’s $13.7 billion buyout of Whole Foods sparked some worries about Wal-Mart’s future. But analysts believe the chain can bank partly on its smaller Neighborhood Market stores absorbing any blowback from the bolstered competition. That, and the fact that Wal-Mart still controls some 14 percent of the grocery market. While its stock has fallen 4 percent, the company’s more than 5,300 U.S. locations - within 10 miles of 90 percent of the population - mean Wal-Mart’s not yet worried.    Slate

  • This, Right Here.  This Is Where Obama Choked. The American people had damn near an absolute right to know this information.  ESQUIRE

  • A Camera That Thinks for Itself:  It can see the future. European researchers are working on a smart camera that mimics the human brain, using bio-inspired eye-like sensors to convert light into electric signals in an artificial neural network. The ultralow-power event-based camera (ULPEC) boasts a memory- and power-saving function that responds much more quickly and efficiently than those currently found in drones and self-driving cars. Even if it’s still a long way from fruition, developers hope ULPEC will prove that you don’t need a supercomputer to make artificial intelligence a reality.  Scientific American

  • Obama Speaks Out as Senate Unveils Health Plan:  It’s out. Senate Republicans on Thursday finally published their plan to ditch Obamacare, ending weeks of mounting bipartisan impatience over the secretive process. The bill includes deep cuts to Medicaid and ends penalties for the non-insured. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to call a vote next week, even though half a dozen GOP lawmakers are reportedly wavering over supporting it. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama criticized the plan, saying, “If there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm.“    The Guardian

  • Arrests of Trumpcare Protesters, Some in Wheelchairs, Outside McConnell’s Office:    “Soon after a draft version of the Republican’s Senate version of their Trumpcare care bill was released Thursday morning, Capitol Hill Police were systematically arresting people who staged a dramatic sit-in outside of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Amid chants of “Don’t Touch Medicaid!” and signs suggesting the same, many of those protesting the Senate bill were either elderly or in wheelchairs, offering a stunning visual as police tried to remove them from the hallway.”    Common Dreams

  • Lawsuit Accuses Donald Trump Of Illegally Destroying White House Records:  “Two watchdog groups have sued Donald Trump over White House records, accusing the president of illegally destroying communications that must be preserved by federal law. The suit — filed Thursday against Trump and the Executive Office of the President by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive — focuses on an “auto-delete” app reportedly being used for messages sent from the White House that erase messages after they’re read.    HuffPost

  • GOP Senators Far From United on Health Care:  Let the healing begin. After the Senate bill to replace Obamacare was unveiled, Senator Ted Cruz doubted “it has the votes to pass.“ He’s joined four colleagues opposing the current language, including Senator Rand Paul, who complained it’s like “keeping Obamacare.“ Moderates worry its Medicaid cuts will pull the rug from under opioid-addicted constituents, and two of them decry the legislation’s Planned Parenthood defunding. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can satisfy 50 of 53 Republicans by next week’s vote, it would, observers say, be nothing short of a legislative miracle.  USA Today

  • If Voters Won’t Help Democrats, There’s Always Russia:  They’re back to square one. Democrats failed to chip away support from Donald Trump and the GOP Congress in Tuesday’s special election in Georgia, falling four points short of victory. Now it’s back to Russiagate, which Trump reinvigorated Friday, tweeting - a day after he said an intelligence assessment detailing Russian election meddling was a “HOAX” - that the Obama Administration “did nothing about” Russian election meddling. He also said earlier that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s relationship with ousted FBI director James Comey was “very bothersome,“ perhaps preparing the ground for another dismissal.    ABC

  • How Sick Is North Korea?    The prognosis isn’t good. With an idealistic eye toward reunification, South Korean researchers are using a long-term study to assess the health and development of some 1,100 North Koreans who’ve escaped to the peninsula’s southern half. These mentally and physically scarred refugees tell of surviving a society where 70 percent suffer protracted “food insecurity,“ and where the best medicine comes from black marketeer doctors and Chinese folk traditions. Their data has taken on special relevance with Americans demanding answers about U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who died after 17 months in the Hermit Kingdom’s care.    Undark

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  FCC Chief to Attend Ohio-West Virginia Broadband Summit

The commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission is slated to attend a broadband summit next month in Ohio.

Mignon Clyburn will attend the Appalachian Ohio-West Virginia Connectivity Summit and Town Hall on July 18 in Marietta.

The commissioner is attending as part of a nationwide listening tour about limited Internet access in rural areas.

The event targets broadband access in southeast Ohio and northern West Virginia.

The town hall with Clyburn will take place at Marietta High School and will be open to the public. Guests must register to attend.

The summit’s workshop will take place at Washington State Community College.

►  SBA to consider MIP requests Today

More than a dozen county school systems hope to receive funding for major improvement projects from the state School Building Authority Monday.

The authority will meet in Charleston and on the agenda is deciding how to divide $6.7 million in funding set aside for MIP (Major Improvement Projects).

Fayette County is among the 14 districts seeking project funding. The county is requesting $1 million for a new safe-schools entrance and interior renovations at Oak Hill High School to accommodate an increase in enrollment from the planned closure of Fayetteville High School.

Also on the SBA agenda, the funding of less expensive projects under the authority’s three percent funding program. Seven projects are under consideration.

The SBA meeting is set for 9 a.m. at the home of the West Virginia Lottery.

►  Justice Will Veto Bill To Sell Jackie Withrow Facility

Governor Jim Justice announced that he will veto House Bill 113, legislation to allow the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to sell the Jackie Withrow Hospital. Justice believes it would be a mistake at this time to single out the Beckley based hospital and that the sale of state medical facilities must be part of a comprehensive plan.

The Governor praised DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch for crafting a forward thinking plan to improve patient facilities, protect current employees and generate economic development with new construction. Because the Legislature did not include other state properties similar to Withrow, West Virginia will not see results equating to DHHR efficiency.

The bill was introduced during the special session because West Virginia badly needs to rehab many of its state-run medical facilities. Governor Justice said today that it’s not right to only deal with one hospital when DHHR needs the capability to implement a comprehensive strategy statewide.

“We need to evaluate our needs across the entire state, and this bill would only single out Jackie Withrow Hospital,” said Governor Jim Justice. “ Only focusing on one hospital won’t get the job done—it’s a half-measure. Secretary Crouch and his team have done a fantastic job of crafting a plan to help the patients, staff, and communities in need of a new state facility. It’s too bad that this legislation watered down the plan put forward by DHHR.”

Justice added, “I want the residents and the staff at Jackie Withrow to know that I hear them and that my focus is on providing the best possible care to our people. I’m vetoing this bill because we can’t settle for upgrading just one hospital at a time. I want the Legislature to adopt the full DHHR plan to revitalize our state facilities.”

►  HEPC reauthorizes all WV 4-year college degree programs

After considering factors such as retention, graduation rates, safety and financial health, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission voted unanimously at its Friday meeting to reauthorize all of the four-year, degree-granting institutions in the state.

The reauthorization means all 25 of the state’s four-year institutions can legally grant degrees to students for another year. Through an analysis process overseen by a committee made up of HEPC members, external consultants and institution representatives, points of concern were raised for each school regarding things such as campus safety, institutional effectiveness and financial health, which is measured by a Composite Financial Index (CFI) score on a scale of minus-3 to 3.

More than half of the four-year colleges and universities failed to hold a CFI score higher than 1 — a rate reserved for institutions in “relatively weaker” financial standings, according to Ed Magee, vice chancellor of finance for HEPC.

“[The CFI score] is used to give an overall picture of where an institution is financially — just a snapshot,” Magee said.

A low CFI score does not necessarily indicate a failure on the institution’s part, and can sometimes be attributed to special circumstances or one-time occurrences — like changes in insurance policies and asbestos removal plans at West Virginia University — that sway the entire year’s numbers, Magee said.

“It gives you that snapshot, but it’s very important to really see what circumstances are,” he said.

However, one constant outlined in several institutions’ reasonings for their financial vulnerabilities lays in consistent cuts in state funding for higher education.

“With the constant budget cuts these institutions have faced — those budget cuts have made it very challenging for them to maintain a positive composite financial index,” Magee said. “I think the institutions over the years, certainly they’ve become more efficient and cost effective, but there’s a limit to what could be done in those areas before the services to the student and the education of our citizens suffer. We’ve tried to keep our tuition costs in line, but with increased changes and more budget cuts, it makes it difficult.”

Normally, Friday morning’s meeting at BridgeValley Community & Technical College would have focused mostly on the financial status and tuition rates for these institutions, but delays in the state Legislature’s budget process made this not an option, according to Paul Hill, HEPC chancellor.

Despite not having official numbers, Hill said he is confident the schools are going to try and hold tuition rates down as much as possible — even while facing another consecutive year of cuts to higher education funding from the state government.

“Schools generally don’t want to increase tuition,” Hill said. “Affordability is a big thing in higher education — it keeps students coming and not have them be deterred by the cost. I think schools generally are going to be very sensitive to tuition increases.”

Also Friday, Mike Farrell, formerly WV HEPC’s vice chairman, was appointed as the commission’s new chairman following the end of Chairman Dr. Bruce Berry’s term.

Farrell will begin his term on July 01.

The commission also appointed Bob Brown as a new ex-officio board member. Brown was recently named chairman of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, and will replace Clarence Pennington in his position on the board.

Also Friday, the commission unanimously approved allowing Marshall University to offer classes at BridgeValley’s Montgomery and South Charleston locations.

This is an “extension of existing articulation agreements,” said Corley Dennison, vice chancellor for academic affairs. The agreement came about after discussion between the two institutions, and is meant to help students more conveniently finish bachelor’s degrees at the Montgomery and South Charleston campuses.

The schools will start offering the classes this fall for enrolled students.

Also Friday:

•  The commission unanimously approved refunding bonds bought through Glenville State College, allowing the institution to only pay interest on the bonds from 2017-2019, giving it more spending money, according to Paul Hill. This will give the institution operating money it did not have before, and will most likely allow the school to offer flat tuition rates next year instead of increasing tuition to make up for funds.

•  The commission unanimously approved the tuition reciprocity agreement between three West Virginia schools (WVU, WVU at Parkersburg and West Virginia Northern Community College) and three Ohio schools (Belmont Technical College, Eastern Gateway Community College and Washington State Community College) until June 2019. The agreement allows students from 12 West Virginia counties to attend the Ohio institutions at resident rates. Any Ohio students can attend WVU or WVU at Parkersburg with in-state tuition through the agreement, and students from seven Ohio counties can attend WVNCC at the rates.

•  The commission unanimously approved adding a master’s program in Data Analytics and Information Systems and a Bachelor of Arts program in Contemporary Theater Studies at Shepherd University. Shepherd is not seeking any financial assistance for either programs, which will both be implemented in Fall 2017.

•  The commission unanimously approved allowing Lindsey Wilson College to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and classes through Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College for two more years. Lindsey Wilson College, which is located in Kentucky, will offer an undergraduate degree program in human services and counseling and a master’s of education program in counseling and human development.

The next Higher Education Policy Commission meeting will be held August 11.    ~~  Caity Coyne ~~

►  Attorney General Morrisey Looks Back on Devastating Flood

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issues the following statement on the anniversary of the historic flooding in central and southeastern West Virginia:

“On this day, my thoughts and prayers are with those individuals and families who lost their loved ones in the disastrous flooding that occurred in several communities across the state one year ago. In the massive destruction that ensued, hundreds lost their homes, property and places of work. Communities can be torn apart in such times of emergency, but countless West Virginians were willing to help their neighbors, donating time, resources and doing anything else they could to lend a hand.

“Additionally, my office and staff worked diligently to lend a hand in any way we could. At the Capitol, we participated in collection drives for items needed in flood-ravaged areas. Our field representatives organized mobile office visits and extended the hours of our consumer protection hotline.

“We made it our duty to educate the public about scams that may arise from unscrupulous contractors, so-called charities or others preying on consumers when an emergency arises and emotions run high. One of our primary efforts was education regarding price gouging laws. Staff also contacted flood relief charities to ensure funding and supplies were being collected by authorized groups and were to be used for those in need.

“As we remember this historic and tragic event, I once again am proud to have seen firsthand the generosity of West Virginians in the wake of such death and destruction. It is this spirit of kindness that will move West Virginia forward to reach her full potential.”

►  Pharmacy shifts focus to compounding, home medical business

After more than 30 years in St. Albans, Loop Pharmacy and Home Medical is changing the way it does business.

The pharmacy, located on Sixth Avenue, has sold the retail pharmacy portion of its business to CVS. It will continue the compounding pharmacy and home medical operations, owner Bill McFarland said Thursday.

Compounding, or preparing customized medicines for patients, is “designing or creating something unique to that patient that standard medications are not working to do,“ McFarland said. “That’s a profession in itself to me.“

The pharmacy opened nearly 33 years ago in October 1984. The business started with retail pharmacy and expanded to compounding, he said.

McFarland said the change will also allow for a “more robust” home medical section with more products.

“This is going to become a compounding pharmacy with nutritional support, which means we’ll have vitamins, nutrients, herbal products,“ he said. “You’ll see my shelves begin to fill up with that sort of thing.“

McFarland said he decided to drop the retail pharmacy because problems associated with insurance reimbursements with the standard pharmacy business were becoming too overwhelming.

Having only the compounding portion of the pharmacy will give him “more freedom to serve the patients’ unique needs of medications,“ McFarland said.

The six pharmacy staff members associated with the retail pharmacy have all found other work or decided to stay home with their kids for the summer, McFarland said. McFarland’s former partner pharmacist, Erin Rudge, has taken a job with CVS, where she’s helping with the transition from that side, he said.

“Which has made it somewhat sweeter for the people,“ McFarland said.

On Thursday, much of the store’s shelves stood empty as customers milled in and out and staff members worked. Red signs on the business’s two outside doors alerted retail pharmacy customers that their prescriptions had been transferred to CVS Pharmacy.

McFarland said customers’ prescriptions should have flowed seamlessly to CVS and customers should have no obstacles to getting them there.

Wilma Paul, of St. Albans, stopped by the business last Thursday morning to ask about getting diabetic testing supplies there. Paul said she found out about the changes to the pharmacy from her son, who went to fill a prescription and found out it was to be filled at CVS instead. Paul said she’s been coming to the pharmacy since it opened.

Another customer, Vickie Godbey, of St. Albans, said she’ll continue to come for compound prescriptions. She likes the pharmacy because it’s close to where she lives and the people there are nice.

“It’s just a change he said he had to make,“ Godbey said.

McFarland said overall, reactions from customers have been mixed.

“People are happy for me, they understand this is going to be less stressful for this person,“ he said. “They’re sad — we have relationships, (people) that have been coming to this pharmacy for 33 years. So we’re sad for that because we’ve done a really good job of taking care of people, obviously.“

►  West Virginia County Clerk Tapped for Trump’s Election Panel

Donald Trump has tapped a Democratic county clerk from West Virginia to join a national elections panel aimed at investigating voter fraud allegations.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes learned Thursday that he’ll join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Republican West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner recommended Rhodes for the job, citing his commitment to clean elections, up-to-date voter registration rolls and work ethic.

Trump established the committee last month by executive order.

The White House has said the panel will examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration.

Mike Pence is the chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is vice chairman.

The commission will report back to Trump by 2018.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


Trump seems to have a realistic chance of repealing “Obamacare,“ but he’s nowhere close to fulfilling his promises of affordable health care for all.


The Supreme Court is poised to act on the Trump administration’s travel ban and a separation of church and state dispute involving a Missouri church playground.


The Japanese air bag maker says it’s the only way to ensure it could carry on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.


AP finds that authorities delayed their investigation and told Matthew Fenner his only option was to pursue misdemeanor charges against North Carolina church members he says assaulted him in the sanctuary.


Whether the comeback proves fleeting has significant implications for long-term climate emission reduction targets.


Packed with about 160 passengers for the holiday weekend, the El Almirante ferry capsizes on a reservoir near Medellin, leaving at least six people dead, officials say.


Martin Shkreli, best known for becoming a pariah after his drug company raised a medication 5,000 percent, continues preening and trolling on social media.


Engineers in Utah are doing tests on a 100-foot long model that is 1/50th the size of the Oroville Dam spillway that connects to the country’s tallest dam.


Remy Ma ends rival Nicki Minaj’s seven-year winning streak, a show highlighted by ‘90s R&B and groups popular in that decade, as well as five wins for Beyonce.


The Oklahoma City Thunder star became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for a season and won his second scoring title.

Uber employees are conflicted over Travis Kalanick’s resignation

Over 1,000 have petitioned for his return.

Tesla is planning on creating its own proprietary music-streaming service

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is in talks with major labels about creating a streaming service that would come bundled in all Tesla vehicles.

Imagination Technologies has put itself up for sale

The move comes less than three months after Apple said it no longer wants to use its chip designs.

Yahoo is shutting down the news app it bought from 17-year-old Brit Nick D’Aloisio for a reported $30 million

The app will stop being supported on June 30.

Online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch has raised close to $400 million

The money came from online Chinese mall, which is one of China’s biggest e-commerce companies.

Facebook is trying to stop scammers from stealing users’ profile pictures

The social network has developed new tools designed to protect people’s images from theft.

A leaked guestlist shows Snapchat sent 48 employees to court advertisers at the Cannes Lions Festival

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel was among them.

Tech billionaire Sean Parker has stepped down from Spotify’s board of directors as the company prepares to IPO

He has been on the board for seven years.

Elon Musk was the reason one of Apple’s most famous developers left Tesla after only six months

Chris Lattner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t get along.

Apple is planning to renegotiate the terms with music labels to reduce their revenue cut from its streaming service

The deal Apple has with record labels is due to the expire at the end of the month.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►  10 U.S. Cities With the Most Smokers

In the past 50 years, the US smoking rate has fallen from 40% to about 18%. That suggests the habit and the health problems associated with it are easing, yet more than a quarter of residents still smoke in some US cities. The US metropolitan areas (none of them major ones) with the highest smoking rates, per 24/7 Wall St.:

  1. Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.: 28.3%
  2. Lafayette, La.: 28.3%
  3. Erie, Pa.: 28.2%
  4. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Tenn.-Va.: 28%
  5. Fayetteville, NC: 27.8%
  6. Spartanburg, SC: 27.6%
  7. Canton-Massillon, Ohio: 27.5%
  8. Huntington-Ashland, W. Va.-Ky.-Ohio: 27.2%
  9. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC: 25.4%
  10. Winston-Salem, NC: 25%

Click for the FULL LIST.

►  Big cases, retirement rumors as Supreme Court nears finish

The Supreme Court enters its final week of work before a long summer hiatus with action expected on the Trump administration’s travel ban and a decision due in a separation of church and state case that arises from a Missouri church playground.

The biggest news of all, though, would be if Justice Anthony Kennedy were to use the court’s last public session on Monday to announce his retirement.

To be sure, Kennedy has given no public sign that he will retire this year and give Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy’s departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court.

But Kennedy turns 81 next month and has been on the court for nearly 30 years. Several of his former law clerks have said they think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so. Kennedy and his clerks were gathering over the weekend for a reunion that was pushed up a year and helped spark talk he might be leaving the court.

“Soon we’ll know if rumors of Kennedy’s retirement are accurate,“ one former Kennedy clerk, George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr, said on Twitter Friday.

When the justices take the bench Monday, they are expected to decide the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which was excluded from a state grant program to pay for soft surfaces on playgrounds run by not-for-profit groups. The case is being closely watched by advocates of school vouchers, who hope the court will make it easier to use state money to pay for private, religious schooling in states that now prohibit it.

Missouri has since changed its policy under Republican Governor Eric Greitens so that churches may now apply for the money.

Also expected in the next few days, though there’s no deadline by which the court must decide, is a ruling on whether to allow the administration to immediately enforce a 90-day ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, could play a pivotal role in both the travel ban and church playground cases.

In all, six cases that were argued between November and April remain undecided. Three of those, all involving immigrants or foreigners, were heard by an eight-justice court, before Gorsuch joined the bench in April.

If the eight justices are evenly divided, those cases could be argued a second time in the fall, with Gorsuch available to provide the tie-breaking vote.

►  Authorities: Texas mom left 2 kids in hot car as punishment

A Texas woman told investigators that she left her 2-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son in a hot car where they died last month to teach the girl a lesson and that they didn’t lock themselves in, as she initially reported, according to sheriff’s officials.

Cynthia Marie Randolph, 24, was being held Saturday on two counts of causing serious bodily injury to a child. It wasn’t clear if she had an attorney – online jail records didn’t list one for her – and she doesn’t have a listed phone number.

According to the criminal complaint, Randolph initially told investigators she was inside her rural home west of Fort Worth folding laundry and watching TV on May 26 while the children were playing on the enclosed back porch. She said when she noticed they were no longer there, she went looking for them and found them about a half-hour later locked in the car. The children were unresponsive and Randolph said she broke a window to gain entry. Temperatures that day reached into the mid-90s.

At the time Randolph said the kids were exposed to the extreme temperatures in the car for “no more than an hour.“ But her account of that day changed over the course of several interviews with investigators until she acknowledged on Friday that she left them in the car intentionally, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. She told investigators that she found the kids playing in the car and when the 2-year-old refused to get out, she shut the door to teach her a lesson, thinking her daughter could get herself and her brother out of the vehicle when ready.

Randolph said she went back into the house, smoked marijuana and took a nap for two or three hours, the complaint states. It says that when she woke up and went to check on the children, they were unresponsive, and that she broke the car window to support her initial claim that the children had locked themselves inside.

The children were pronounced dead about a half-hour after authorities were notified.

►  Doctor: Cause of Warmbier’s Coma ‘Almost a Moot Point’

Otto Warmbier’s funeral is on Thursday and the 22-year-old’s family has decided against having an autopsy first, the Hamilton County, Ohio coroner says. The coroner’s office says, contrary to earlier reports, that the family has requested there be no autopsy, though an “external examination” was carried out Tuesday and his medical records are being examined, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview,“ the office said in a statement. Warmbier died Monday, just days after he was returned from detention in North Korea in a coma.

Doctors in Cincinnati disputed Pyongyang’s claim that botulism led to Warmbier’s condition. But they found no fractures or other signs of trauma, and experts tell the Washington Post that any number of things, including torture or a drug overdose, could have caused the coma. They agree, however, that things would probably have been different with better treatment. The cause is “almost a moot point,“ says Duke University professor of neurology Daniel Laskowitz. “Whatever they did to him—they took a healthy kid, put him under horrible conditions, mental and physical anguish ... they left him at risk, didn’t treat him properly, didn’t tell anyone,“ he says.

►  After Death, Fenn Might Call Off Treasure Hunt

Forrest Fenn should retrieve the treasure he stashed in the wilderness before anybody else dies looking for it, New Mexico’s top cop says. “I would implore that he stop this nonsense,“ New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said after searchers found a body believed to be that of Colorado pastor Paris Wallace, who disappeared while hunting for the treasure last week. The body was found in New Mexico’s Rio Grande river, around seven miles downstream from where searchers found the 52-year-old’s abandoned vehicle, along with rope tied around a rock on a nearby riverbank, the BBC reports. Another Colorado man died last year seeking the $2 million haul of gold and jewels Fenn says he hid in 2010.

The search has not only cost lives, it has endangered law enforcement personnel looking for lost searchers, meaning Fenn “has an obligation to retrieve his treasure if it does exist,“ Kassetas tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. Fenn says the death of Wallace is a “terrible loss” and he is considering either calling off the search or making it safer. He tells the New Mexican, however, that the hundreds of emails he has received in recent days have been overwhelmingly against stopping the search. He reminded searchers last week that he was 80 years old when he hid the treasure, meaning they shouldn’t “overextend” themselves in the hunt.

►  OJ Simpson Could Be Free in October

OJ Simpson has a July 20 parole hearing that could have him released from a Nevada prison on October 1, a state parole official said Tuesday. Simpson, now 70, has served more than eight years of a nine-to-33 year sentence imposed after he was found guilty in 2008 of armed robbery, kidnapping, and other charges stemming from a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room in September 2007. Simpson is due to appear by videoconference from Lovelock Correctional Center, where he is being held, before a panel of four parole commissioners sitting in Carson City, parole official David Smith says.

Simpson’s attorney in Las Vegas, Malcolm LaVergne, says he will be with his client at the medium-security prison in a small town 90 miles northeast of Reno. “If he’s able to get parole, my prediction is he’s going to want to live a quiet life,“ LaVergne tells the AP. Simpson has been to the parole board before. In July 2013, he told commissioners he regretted the encounter with the collectibles dealers in Las Vegas and said he had apologized to them. The board noted Simpson had no disciplinary actions during his incarceration and was deemed a low risk for repeat offenses. It granted Simpson parole on some convictions, leaving him with least four more years before his minimum nine-year sentence was reached.

►  Dashcam Footage Shows Officer Kill Philando Castile

“Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me,“ Philando Castile tells Officer Jeronimo Yanez seconds before he is shot multiple times. Police dashcam footage of Castile’s death that was shown during Yanez’s manslaughter trial was released to the public Tuesday, the Washington Post reports. The video (Warning: graphic content) shows the interaction between Yanez and Castile was calm for about 30 seconds until Castile—who had a permit to carry a firearm—told Yanez he was armed. In response to Castile’s declaration, Yanez yelled, “Don’t pull it out,“ according to the Atlantic. Both Castile and girlfriend Diamond Reynolds in the backseat said he wasn’t. Within seven seconds of learning Castile had a gun, Yanez had opened fire.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Reynolds is heard calmly speaking to Yanez while he yells expletives and calls for backup. “He had an unreasonable fear of Philando Castile as a black man, which caused him to overreact ... which resulted in the death of Philando Castile,” a civil rights attorney tells the Star Tribune after watching the dashcam footage. The footage was shown to jurors during the trial and reportedly again upon request during deliberation. Yanez, who testified he thought he was going to die, was acquitted of manslaughter. “It raises the question: How will you ever get a guilty verdict?” the president of the African-American Leadership Council says.

►  Father and Son Hikers Die in Stifling National Park

The heat wave scorching the western US likely played a role in the death of a father and son from Texas. Robert Stuart Pluta, 57, and son Bobby, 21, set off on a hiking trip in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico Thursday. The first of the men’s bodies was found four days later, around 10pm Monday, hours after Lillian Pluta reported her husband and son missing after failing to reach them over the weekend and learning they hadn’t check out of their room, KRIS reports. A second body was found on Tuesday morning about a mile from the first. The Plutas’ red Ford truck was found at the Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead about 4pm on Monday and a search commenced, the Current-Argus reports.

Temperatures in the park have topped 100 for nearly a week, and heat was likely a factor in their deaths, state police say. The Plutas, experienced hikers, were on a “father-son bonding trip on Father’s Day weekend,“ family pastor Mark Behrendt tells KRIS. “This was something that they had looked forward to.“ A park spokeswoman tells the Current-Argus, “We have pretty extreme temperatures here. You need plenty of water. Dehydration happens quickly.“ The extreme heat was blamed for the deaths of a 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman in San Jose, California, NBC News reports. The National Weather Service says to “expect no significant cooling through Sunday.“

►  Video Shows Motorcyclist Kick Car, Then a Crash

One person was hospitalized following a dangerous apparent road-rage incident that was caught on video Wednesday in California, KTLA reports. Tim Morrison and Chris Traber were on their way to work in Santa Clarita when they saw a car cut off a motorcycle. The situation looked like it was escalating, and they started filming. The video shows the motorcyclist attempt to kick the side of the car. The car then swerves into the motorcycle, loses control, hits the media, and heads back into traffic, where it slams into a truck, flipping it onto its roof. The driver of the truck suffered multiple injuries. Morrison says it was “pretty intense.“ The motorcyclist never stopped, and the California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident as a hit and run.

►  Cops Commit Crimes, Too. This One Is Just ‘Invisible’

Police officers are trained to dominate, interrogate, and show strength. These are the skills that, in theory, make them good police officers—but those same skills can also make for a dangerous abuser, write Melissa Jeltsen and Dana Liebelson at the Huffington Post. “If domestic abuse is one of the most underreported crimes, domestic abuse by police officers is virtually an invisible one,“ they add. Victims may be reluctant to report the abuse to their abuser’s colleagues and friends or maneuver through a confounding justice system with which their abuser is familiar. A federal law also states anyone convicted of domestic abuse cannot own a gun—which, for the family of a police officer, could mean loss of income. Yet, as the stories of two women told in the Huffington Post piece illustrate, domestic abuse by police officers does happen and can be especially terrifying.

Sarah Loiselle and Karen Tingle, both ex-wives of Delaware state trooper Andrel Martinez, accuse him of abusing, stalking, and intimidating them during their relationships and after they ended. Their stories involve unlawful searches in a police database, threatening messages, friends intimidated at work, and other police officers who appeared to work for their husband rather than his victims. That’s one reason a retired police officer believes police departments should have a mandatory procedure in place for instances when an officer is accused of domestic violence, which is no rare thing. Surveys have found that up to 40% of police officers have admitted to violent behavior against a family member. As a Cato Institute researcher explains, domestic violence is “the most common violent crime for which police officers are arrested,“ but many are never convicted and are even able to keep their jobs. Read the piece in full HERE .

►  ‘Pizzagate’ Shooter Receives His Sentence

A man who drove all the way from North Carolina to Washington DC and opened fire inside a pizza restaurant because of an internet conspiracy theory was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday, the BBC reports. According to WTOP, 28-year-old Edgar Welch, a father of two, had watched hours of YouTube videos about “Pizzagate,“ which claimed a child sex ring connected to Hillary Clinton was being run out of Comet Ping Pong. Police and the FBI have said there is absolutely no truth to the conspiracy theory, NBC News reports. Regardless, Welch brought a rifle and pistol into the restaurant in what prosecutors called an “armed invasion” and shot into a locked cabinet where he thought children were being kept.

Welch pleaded guilty in March to assault and firearms charges. “It was never my intention to harm or frighten innocent lives, but I realize now just how foolish and reckless my decision was,“ Welch wrote in a letter to the judge. The judge said Welch should have contacted authorities but instead took matters into his own hands, leaving behind “psychological wreckage.“ Comet Ping Pong has hired a security guard, employees have needed counseling, and owner James Alefantis says the incident has “left lasting damage on the people I love.“ Welch’s lawyer had asked for an 18-month sentence, but prosecutors say a longer sentence was needed to discourage others from acting on internet conspiracy theories.

►  Manson Family Member Denied Parole

California’s parole board denied parole for convicted killer Patricia Krenwinkel—a follower of cult leader Charles Manson—Thursday, the AP reports. Krenwinkel, 69, was previously denied parole 13 times for the 1969 slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four other people in Southern California. The next night, she helped kill grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Manson to ignite a race war. Commissioners postponed the latest parole hearing in December while officials investigated whether battered women’s syndrome affected her state of mind at the time of the murders. The hearing resumed Thursday at the California Institution for Women east of Los Angeles, the AP reports.

Krenwinkel was a 19-year-old secretary living with her older sister when she met the then-33-year-old Manson at a party. She testified that she left everything behind three days later to follow him because she believed they had a budding romantic relationship. She testified in December that her feelings faded when she realized Manson was routinely sleeping with other women, including underage girls, became physically and emotionally abusive, and trafficked Krenwinkel to other men for sex. She said she left him twice only to be brought back, that she was usually under the influence of drugs and rarely left alone. “It started with love, and then turned to fear,“ she said.

►  This Might Be the Weirdest CIA Misdeed Ever

The CIA may be famous for daring acts of espionage, but in 2013 several agency contractors learned the hard way not to use their shadowy skills to steal from vending machines. A declassified report from the Office of Inspector General says several agency contractors conspired to steal more than $3,300 worth of products from CIA vending machines between the fall of 2012 and March 2013. According to BuzzFeed, which acquired the report through the Freedom of Information Act, an unidentified contractor disconnected the network cables that enable communication between the vending machines and the agency’s “FreedomPay” system, thereby allowing “purchases to be made by nonpaying individuals.“

The hacker then shared the technique with an unidentified number of other contractors, all of whom later admitted to taking part in the scheme. All of the contractors involved were escorted from the building and fired by their respective contractor employers, though the Department of Justice declined to press charges. While it’s not clear why the perpetrators thought they could get away with ripping off the world’s most feared intelligence agency, Slate speculates they likely thought the CIA had “bigger fish to fry” or that no one would ever notice $3314.40 worth of candy missing from an agency with an annual budget of $5 billion. All things considered, Gizmodo considers this “easily the greatest CIA operation in the history of the organization.“

►  Cosby Juror Reveals What Happened

After 52 hours of tense deliberations, two holdouts in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial refused to convict the 79-year-old comedian, a juror told ABC News, per the AP. The juror, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 10 of the 12 jurors agreed that Cosby was guilty on the first and third felony counts alleging he lacked consent when he penetrated Andrea Constand’s genitals with his fingers and that he gave her an intoxicant that substantially impaired her and stopped her from resisting. Only one of the jurors thought he was guilty on the second count, alleging Constand was unconscious or semi-conscious at the time and could not give consent, the juror said.

The two holdouts were “not moving, no matter what,“ the juror told the network Wednesday, adding emotions were high as deliberations wore on in a cramped back room. “People would just start crying out of nowhere,“ the juror said, adding that one fellow juror punched a concrete wall in the jury room. Jurors initially voted overwhelmingly to acquit Cosby on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault, the juror said. Constand testified that Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby said the encounter was consensual. Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial, saying he wants Cosby to be retried within four months.

►  Report: KKK Is Wracked by ‘Internal Turmoil’

The Ku Klux Klan is suffering from declining influence and plagued by infighting, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League. The 152-year-old hate group’s “most consistent activity” is handing out hate literature, and their chief targets are Black Lives Matter, LBGT issues such as transgender bathrooms, Muslims, immigrants, and keeping the Confederate flag flying, per the report. But as far as fliering goes, USA Today points out a year-over-year drop, with the ADL recording 86 such incidents in which fliers were left at people’s homes in 2015 and 78 in 2016. There was a slight increase on one front, though: The report finds 42 active Klan-affiliated groups in 2017 as compared to 37 in early 2016, though most have fewer than 25 members.

They have held activities in 33 states in the last 18 months, but attendance has been light, with USA Today citing two June events that drew just 10 and 12 people, respectively. Distrust has wracked the ranks, with members dissing each other on social media. The ADL notes one post from a Klan member griped there are “more Imperial Wizards on Facebook then there is at Hogwart’s Academy.“ While the head of the ADL’s Center on Extremism says the KKK has “largely failed to maintain the notorious status they once had,“ ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt warns that Klan acolytes still represent a danger. “These hardened racists and bigots are looking to spread fear,“ he says, warning that unhappy members may move on from the “small and fractured” KKK to other extreme far right groups.

►  LA County Cops Fire at Pit Bull, Kill Teenager

A 17-year-old in Palmdale, Calif., was shot dead early Thursday after he tried to stop somebody else’s pit bull from attacking police officers. Los Angeles County officials say Armando Garcia-Muro was hit by a “skip round” that ricocheted off the ground when deputies fired at the charging animal, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police say the animal bit deputies responding to a complaint about a loud party at around 3:40am. Armando restrained the animal and brought it to the back of the apartment complex, but he was shot when it broke free and charged at police again.

Sheriff’s Capt. Christopher Bergner says it was an “extremely, extremely unfortunate incident,“ the AP reports. He says deputies, who fired when the dog was around 10 feet away, apparently didn’t see the teenager in the darkness. The bitten deputy was also hit by a bullet but received only minor injuries. The dog’s owner tells the LAT that it was off the leash when police turned up, but the animal was “well-mannered” and she finds it hard to believe it attacked deputies. Armando’s mother says her son, the oldest of four siblings, was a “very loving person” who liked dogs and planned to go into construction after finishing high school. The dog was shot but survived. Police say they plan to have it euthanized.

►  She Said She Was Raped. The Investigation Led Her to Suicide

Megan Rondini was a 20-year-old honors student with a 3.8 GPA at the University of Alabama when she was allegedly raped by a 34-year-old businessman, a member of a prominent Tuscaloosa family. After escaping from his home in the wee hours of July 2, 2015, she went immediately to the hospital and then the sheriff’s department to report what had happened. What followed, as detailed in an extensive BuzzFeed look at the case by Katie JM Baker, ultimately led to Rondini’s withdrawal from the university and her suicide in February 2016. Police seemed to doubt Rondini’s story from the get-go, and to this day they maintain she did not “earnestly” resist her alleged rapist, TJ Bunn Jr., as Alabama’s legal definition of rape requires. And authorities were soon turning things around on Rondini, who ultimately found herself the subject of investigation.

While trying to find her keys in her flight from Bunn’s home, Rondini took $3 from his car in case she needed to take a cab. She also initially took a pistol she found in his car “for safety” and accidentally fired it while handling it. Police seized on those details, and after the district attorney initially decided not to bring Rondini’s allegations against Bunn to a grand jury, that decision was later reversed in what BuzzFeed calls a “package deal”—the grand jury would also rule on felony charges against Rondini related to the money and the gun, which investigators said may have been fired into Bunn’s residence. That’s when Rondini dropped the civil suit she had started, withdrew from school, and moved back home to Texas, ultimately hanging herself months later. There’s much more, from a university therapist’s refusal to treat Rondini to investigators’ failure to test Rondini to see if she had been drugged, in BuzzFeed’s full article.

►  Cosby Juror Explains Why He Didn’t Believe Accuser

Another Bill Cosby juror has spoken out anonymously, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that votes were split “up the middle: young and old, black and white, men and women.“ He blamed that on the language to describe the charges being confusing and “too legal,“ saying jurors debated terms like “reckless” and “severely impaired.“ When they asked to review testimony during deliberations, “we were trying to match the testimony up with the charges,“ he said. “Everybody’s interpretation of those words was something different.“ As for his own vote, he wouldn’t say what it was, but he did mention he did not find accuser Andrea Constand believable.

“She was well-coached,“ he said of Constand’s testimony. “Let’s face it: She went up to his house with a bare midriff and incense and bath salts. What the heck?“ He added that she should have gone to Cosby’s home “dressed properly” and she should have “left the incense [a gift for Cosby] in the store.“ CNN, CBS, and the AP also have new interviews with an anonymous juror or jurors, and while it’s not clear whether it’s the same one, the sentiments expressed were similar. “When you ask for help on your resume, on your resignation letter, which she did, and he, Mr. Cosby, invites her to his home and she arrives in a bare midriff with incense and bath salts, that’s a question,“ said the juror the AP spoke to.

►  Tech sergeant released from hospital after air show accident

A technical sergeant has been released from a hospital hours after an Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 left the runway and flipped over after landing during preparation for an air show in Ohio.

The Dayton Daily News reports Technical Sgt. Kenneth Cordova was released Friday night. The jet’s pilot, Capt. Erik Gonsalves, has not been released as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Thunderbirds’ Twitter feed. Authorities said both were in good condition after the accident Friday afternoon at Dayton International Airport.

The Thunderbirds did not perform Saturday at the Vectren Dayton Air Show, and the air crew posted on Twitter late Saturday afternoon that it would not perform Sunday.

The commander in charge of the Thunderbirds has said a safety board will determine the cause of the “mishap” that occurred at the end of an advance flight before the weekend’s shows.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►  15 bodies found after landslide buries scores in China

Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 100 more people remained missing.

About 3,000 rescuers were using detection devices and dogs to look for signs of life in an area that once held 62 homes and a hotel, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“We won’t give up as long as there is a slim of chance,“ the agency quoted an unidentified searcher as saying.

The provincial government of Sichuan on Sunday released the names of the 118 missing people. It’s unclear if the 15 bodies have been identified.

Relatives were sobbing as they awaited news of their loved ones. A woman in a nearby village told The Associated Press that she had no information on her relatives in Xinmo, the mountain village that was buried. She said she had only heard that body parts were found.

Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, the region where the landslide struck early Saturday, said that all 142 tourists who were visiting a site in Xinmo have been found alive.

Three members of one family were located five hours after the landslide. Qiao Dashuai, 26, said he and his wife awoke to cries from their 1-month-old son around 5:30 a.m.

“Just after we changed the diaper for the baby, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,“ said Qiao. “We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.“

Qiao told state broadcaster CCTV his family was swept away by water as part of a mountain collapsed. He said they struggled against the flood of water until they met medical workers who took them to a hospital. His parents and other relatives were among the missing.

“It’s the biggest landslide to hit this area since the Wenchuan earthquake,“ Wang Yongbo, an official leading one of the rescue efforts, told CCTV. Wang was referring to China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor that struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Mao County, or Maoxian, sits on the eastern margin of the Tibetan plateau and is home to about 110,000 people. Most residents are of the Qiang ethnic minority.

The landslide buried 1 mile of road and blocked a 1.2-mile section of a river. The provincial government said on its website that an estimated 282 million cubic feet of earth and rock – equivalent to more than 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – slid down the mountain.

Experts told CCTV that the landslide was likely triggered by rain. Search may be made easier Sunday as the weather service forecast a sunny day.

►  North Korea Is Hiding Kim’s Ears

Millions of Americans have something in common with Kim Jong Un: He, too, appears to be self-conscious about his body—specifically, his ears. North Korea has strangely taken to photoshopping its leader’s ears, which a pair of non-proliferation experts picked up on, reports Motherboard. While North Korea’s habit of editing photos is well-known, Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey say they’ve noticed several photos in which editing specifically targets Kim’s ears. As Lewis puts it, “He doesn’t like his ears, or so it seems.“

Schmerler may know why. One photo of Kim shows an imperfection at the base of his ear, which doctors suggest could be anything from a cyst to a viral infection. North Korea has a history of covering up illnesses, but erasing the mark, if it is benign, also serves a purpose. This cosmetic alteration and others like it are likely designed “to help Kim look a bit more handsome than he is in real life,“ Lewis says. His ears aren’t Kim’s greatest cause for distress, apparently. The chairman of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee says Kim is limiting public appearances and travel over fears that there’s a plot to cut his head off, per the Korea Herald.

►  Who Wants to Be King? Not Us Royals, Says Harry

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so,“ comes the answer from a person you might not expect: Prince Harry. But in an interview with Newsweek, the 32-year-old assures that “we will carry out our duties at the right time.“ Prince William’s younger brother says the Windsors are attempting to “modernize the British monarchy … not for ourselves but for the greater good of the people.“ To that end, the Telegraph trumpets Harry’s line, “Even if I was king, I would do my own shopping.“ (He is fifth in line to the throne, after William’s kids.) Harry says he attempts to have as ordinary life as possible and adds, “If I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”

But Harry, who has fought to protect his privacy and that of his American actress girlfriend, Meghan Markle, admits to worrying that “someone will snap me with their phone” as he steps away from his supermarket’s meat counter. He calls it a “tricky balancing act” to avoid diluting “the magic” of Team Royal by seeming too ho-hum. Yet the ginger-haired blueblood credits Princess Diana with showing him how the other half lives. “Thank goodness,“ he says. Of the iconic image of Harry, then 12, and his brother following their mother’s coffin through the London streets nearly 20 years ago, Harry says, “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.“

►  Sniper May Have Made Longest Kill Shot in History

A Canadian sniper in Iraq appears to have taken a shot for the ages. The Globe and Mail reports that a still-unidentified member of the nation’s elite forces killed an Islamic State militant from a distance of 3,450 meters, which translates to more than 37 football fields. If the account is verified—and it was apparently documented on video—it would best the previous longest kill made by a British sniper in 2009 of 2,475 meters. The gunman used a McMillan TAC-50, which Newsweek notes is the standard rifle among Canada’s well-regarded snipers, and took the shot from a high-rise building in an unspecified locale in Iraq. The Globe and Mail spoke to multiple military sources who knew about the shot.

“It is at the distance where you have to account not just for the ballistics of the round, which change over time and distance, you have to adjust for wind, and the wind would be swirling,” one expert tells the Globe and Mail. In fact, at that distance, the shooter would also have to account for the curvature of the earth, he adds. One military source says the sniper “disrupted a Daesh (ISIS) attack on Iraqi security forces.“ Canadian forces in Iraq have been assisting Kurdish fighters battling ISIS, enough so that ISIS has called for retaliatory attacks in Canada.

►  IKEA Serving Bowl Sets Man’s Grapes on Fire

A man found himself in the middle of an unexpected science experiment in Sweden after he set his bowl of grapes in the sun. Richard Walter says he was outside near his Blanda Blank stainless steel serving bowl from IKEA when he noticed his grapes were on fire. “‘How is that possible?‘ I thought. Then I saw there was one intense point where [the sun] hit the twigs, and that’s where it started.“ His friends wanted proof, so Walter posted a video on Facebook of a piece of paper starting to burn after he placed it in the bowl in direct sunlight. For its part, IKEA tells the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet that it’s taking the information “very seriously” and investigating how this could happen.

But a statement to The Local suggests that the fiery mishap is indeed possible, with an IKEA rep saying “it has been established that many different parameters would have to converge” for fire to occur, and the risk is “very low. The round design of the bowl further contributes to a very low risk of spreading, in case of any overheated material in the bowl.“ Business Insider notes that no one has made any fire-related complaints on the US product page, where the bowl is described as a “great size for serving or prep cooking.“

►  Russia warns Norway that hosting U.S. Marines will hurt ties

Russia has told Norway that the extension of a U.S. military deployment in the country will hit diplomatic ties.

The Russian Embassy in Norway warned on its Facebook page Saturday that the move could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization of the situation in the northern region.“ It said “this step contradicts Norwegian policy of not deploying foreign military.“

Norway announced this week that 330 U.S. Marines will remain in the country until the end of 2018, a year longer than was originally planned. The U.S. force arrived in January and is based near the western city of Trondheim, 900 miles from the Russian border.

Russia and members of NATO have accused each other of ramping up tensions in recent years with increased military activity by both sides.

►  UN: More than 200,000 suspected cholera cases in Yemen

The U.N. health agency says there are now more than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera in an outbreak in war-torn Yemen, many of them children.

UNICEF director Anthony Lake and World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan said in a statement Saturday, “we are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world,“ with an average of 5,000 new cases every day. The agencies say that more than 1,300 people have died – one quarter of them children – and the death toll is expected to rise.

The U.N. says collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread.

In addition, an estimated 30,000 local health workers have not been paid for nearly 10 months.


The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV    I am one of a group of guys who have been friends and card players for over 30 years. For the past three decades, I have witnessed one of our players, “Charlie,‘’ cheat every time we play, but I’ve said nothing. When it’s his time to deal, he shuffles the cards, looks at them and positions them to his liking so that he will deal what he wants to himself. I notice this every time, but no one else does. We are all very good friends, and I don’t want to make a scene, so I say nothing and keep it to myself, burning inside. If I did bring it up in front of everyone, it could bring an end to our game circle. Plus, I know that Charlie would absolutely deny it, and I would look like a fool. This cheating pays off for him, because he wins about 80 to 90 percent of the time. How can I handle this without destroying our long-standing card game? — Sleight of Hand Observer

The Free Press WV    Dear Observer: If you’ve managed to keep your feelings on this matter to yourself for 30 years, you must have a phenomenal poker face. It’s well past time to flush Charlie’s dirty tactics out into the open.

The best way to go about this is to talk to one of the other players and ask whether he’s noticed anything unusual about the way Charlie deals. After 30 years of playing with this guy, I have a feeling he’ll know what you’re referring to. But if not, tell him to keep an eye out the next time the group gets together. Once you’ve got a witness corroborating your claim, go to the others in your group (minus Charlie) and lay it all on the table. Whoever is closest to Charlie should sit him down privately and let him know the group is wise to his maneuvers. He may still deny it, but he’ll be hard-pressed to try it again knowing all eyes are on him.

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV    Recently, my husband and I made plans to go on a cruise along with three other couples. It was up to each couple to make their own travel plans for getting to the port. My husband and I didn’t want to drive into the major city from which the cruise is departing, so we decided we would drive to a nearby town from which a shuttle to the cruise is offered. The shuttle ride takes a couple of hours, but we felt it would be worth avoiding the hassle and cost of parking in the city.

One of the other couples, “Tom’‘ and “Judy,‘’ whom we don’t know very well, ended up wanting to ride with us. This would have been fine if they just wanted to ride along with us to our original destination. But they expected us to drive them right to the cruise ship! When I told them what our plans were, they kept asking whether it would be too late to change our plans and drive straight to the port instead. When I stood firm, they begrudgingly said they’d ride with our other friends. (They didn’t want to ride with them at first because Tom and Judy are both smokers and won’t be allowed to smoke in their car. My husband and I aren’t smokers but would have let them smoke.)

I think that their asking us to change our plans to accommodate them was really unreasonable. What do you think? — Confused Cruiser

The Free Press WV    Dear Confused: I think these two must have started in on the mai tais a little early. You are their acquaintances, not their chauffeurs, and I’m glad you didn’t change your plans to suit them.

But when it comes time to shove off, I suggest that you leave the negative baggage at the dock and give this couple another chance. It will make for smoother sailing and a better overall vacation. Bon voyage.

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV    I am 63, and I help daily with my 94-year-old mother, who lives by herself. I run errands, and I keep her yard nice. I have a brother and sister who live out of state. They come back to visit from time to time. When they do visit, they expect me to entertain them. I feel that because they are staying with her, it is my time to take a break. They don’t seem to realize the pressures I go through every day, when I wonder whether she will answer the door or I will find her on the floor.

Am I being unreasonable in wanting to be able to “escape’‘ mentally and physically for a couple of days whenever it is convenient for them to “escape’‘ their out-of-state lives and visit? I’d like to be able to visit my children and maybe travel a little bit. They not only try to make me feel guilty but also put my mom up to calling me on their behalf. — Needing a Break

The Free Press WV    Dear Needing a Break: It is absolutely reasonable – and smart – that you want some time alone and away from the stresses of caretaking. To properly take care of anyone, you first need to take care of yourself. If your batteries are constantly drained, they’ll eventually be past the point of recharging. Look into hiring some professional help to supplement your own care of your mother. Many insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid, include some form of hospice coverage. Visit

As for your siblings, how they want to treat your mother is their choice. Though you can’t force them to spend more time with her, you can stick up for yourself and ask them to stop shifting blame onto you. You are a wonderful daughter. Don’t let them make you think otherwise because of their own selfish motives.

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV    I can no longer take this digital world.

I cannot program my new dishwasher to a one-hour setting instead of letting it run for two hours; my old dishwasher ran with nothing but a push of the start button. I cannot get an ice cube from my new refrigerator. It’s like an algebra problem. I used to get ice cubes from my old refrigerator by opening the freezer door and grabbing the ice cube tray. New refrigerators do not come equipped with ice cube trays.

My old TV set used to turn on with the click of a single button on the remote. My new TV requires three or four clicks before the picture turns on. I used to play a tape by simply pushing “play’‘ and turned it off by pushing “off.‘’ I am still trying to learn the steps that one has to go through to turn off a DVR. This is the reason mental problems are on the rise for people over 80. — Digital Victim

The Free Press WV    Dear Digital Victim: I feel your pain. I hate having to use two remotes and a considerable amount of brainpower just to turn on the nightly news. But look at it this way: These technological challenges, although frustrating, are working your brain. Cognitive psychologists have found that learning new skills helps to ward off dementia by strengthening connections between different areas of the brain.

That said, you don’t have to drive yourself crazy figuring things out on your own. Ask a store associate for help next time you’re buying such a product. You might also benefit from taking a computer course at your local library, as it could help you feel savvier with technology overall. Don’t give up.

Final Impact Statement for Mountain Valley Pipeline

The Free Press WV

The final environmental impact statement for the Mountain Valley Pipeline issued June 23 finds that construction and operation of the project would have “significant” impact on forests and limited adverse impact otherwise, but the pipeline’s developers say the route was “thoughtfully designed.“

That final statement made the same conclusion reached by the draft EIS released Sept. 16, 2016.

The final EIS was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and immediately drew criticism from groups opposed to the project, despite the pipeline’s developers pointing out they had adopted 14 route alternative segments and 701 minor route adjustments, the majority of which were based on various landowner requests, avoidance of sensitive and/or cultural and historic resources, or engineering considerations.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline would run about 304 miles from the Equitrans transmission system in Wetzel County to a Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. It would run due south in West Virginia, then turn southeast at or near the Virginia border. It would require the construction of new compressor stations in Wetzel, Braxton and Fayette counties.

The pipeline would be up to 42 inches in diameter and would require about 50 feet of permanent easement, with 125 feet of temporary easement during construction.

The project is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners, NextEra US Gas Assets, Con Edison Gas Midstream, WGL Midstream, Vega Midstream MVP and RGC Midstream. It would be operated by an affiliate of EQT Corp.

According to the EIS, the pipeline would impact about 2,428 acres of contiguous interior forest designated as Large Core (defined as greater than 500 acres) forest areas in West Virginia. In Virginia, it would impact about 547 acres of contiguous interior forest during construction classified as “High” to “Outstanding” quality.

“The result of the establishment of a new corridor through interior forest would be the conversion of about 17,194 acres of interior forest in West Virginia and 4,579 acres of interior forest in Virginia into edge habitat based on the extension of forest edge for an estimated 300 feet on either side of the MVP right-of-way,” the EIS says.

Construction of the pipeline would require 136 crossings of bodies of water classified as fisheries of special concern.

“We determined that construction and operation of the projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forest,” the EIS says. “We conclude that approval of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but the majority of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”

Reaction to the EIS came quickly from groups that oppose the project.

“FERC ignores the most harmful impacts this 300-mile-long pipeline for fracked gas would have on lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, local economies, and publicly owned natural resources,” said a statement released by the Chesapeake Climate Action Group on behalf of itself and several other environmental and landowner groups.

“The groups called these risks unacceptable, especially for a pipeline that is not even needed. The coalition also calls the pipeline an assault on the climate and the future of children in West Virginia and Virginia, and notes that the pipeline can still be blocked on multiple federal, state, and legal levels.”

The CCAN statement said the EIS has several “major gaps,” including an alternative analysis including development of energy efficiency, solar and wind as alternatives to construction of pipelines; a complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline; cumulative impacts analysis of all environmental and human health damage from increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline; and a thorough review of damage to water quality and natural resources along and downstream from the pipeline route.

April Keating of the West Virginia Sierra Club said, “Not only are these new pipelines not needed, but they lock us into flammable, radioactive, climate warming methane use at a time when renewable energy is needed most. Renewable energy is more affordable than ever and has created more jobs than the fossil fuel market in recent years. FERC has refused to look at cumulative impacts of this and other projects in the same region, which is doing a real disservice to our public health and putting a chokehold on our economic opportunities.”

Maury Johnson, speaking for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and other groups, said, “The Mountain Valley Pipeline will devalue our land, limit its uses and reduce taxes which support our schools and public services. It will jeopardize the safety and security of residents and anyone who visits the area where it is located. It will impact the water that we so much depend upon for our families, our farms and our communities. It will impact the world-class water that comes from Peters Mountain in West Virginia and Virginia. The impacts to the Jefferson National Forest and the Appalachian Trail will be severe and irreversible. It should be criminal to attempt such a pipeline when the profound environmental damage has not been adequately assessed by FERC, by West Virginia’s DEP or by Virginia’s DEQ.“

Later in the day, Natalie Cox, corporate director of communications for EQT Corp. issued a statement on behalf of the pipeline developers saying the route was “thoughtfully designed.“

The statement said the impact statement comes after three years of project planning and development and took into account recommendations from the FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement from September 2016.

“The FEIS also considers and includes the analyzed data from civil and environmental surveys that have been conducted, as well as the comments, considerations, and concerns of landowners, community members, government agencies and local elected officials along the proposed 303-mile route,“ the statement reads. “With that, it’s important to note that since the project’s inception, MVP has adopted 14 route alternative segments and 701 minor route adjustments, the majority of which were based on various landowner requests, avoidance of sensitive and/or cultural and historic resources, or engineering considerations.

“In the FEIS, FERC staff have concluded that construction and operation of the MVP would result in some adverse environmental impacts; however, the majority of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.“

The statement said specific mitigation measures were developed as part of the FERC review, “to appropriately and reasonably reduce the environmental impacts resulting from construction and operation of the pipeline; therefore, these mitigation measures are being recommended as conditions to any authorization issued by the Commission.“

“The FERC staff, MVP project team and members of numerous other federal and state agencies have been continuously engaging with landowners, businesses, nonprofit groups and community members in an effort to accurately evaluate, develop, and revise plans for the proposed MVP pipeline,“ the statement continued. “These efforts have produced a thoughtfully-designed route and led to the development of comprehensive plans to mitigate any potential impacts to the greatest extent possible. In addition, MVP has secured 2 Bcf per day of firm transmission capacity commitments at 20-year terms, which will support communities along the route, as well as the growing demand markets of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States.

“The MVP team appreciates the strong support that the project has received throughout the communities of Virginia and West Virginia and remains committed to responsibly meeting public demand for clean, affordable natural gas.”

~~  JIM ROSS ~~

Groups Blast FERC Findings On Mountain Valley Pipeline For Fracked Gas

The Free Press WV

A coalition of landowners and advocacy organizations today condemned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for disregarding the profound and long-lasting human and environmental trauma the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) would cause. In its final environmental review, released Friday morning, FERC ignores the most harmful impacts this 300-mile-long pipeline for fracked gas would have on lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, local economies, and publicly owned natural resources. The groups called these risks unacceptable, especially for a pipeline that is not even needed. The coalition also calls the pipeline an assault on the climate and the future of children in West Virginia and Virginia, and notes that the pipeline can still be blocked on multiple federal, state, and legal levels.

The final environmental review1 issued today by FERC for the proposed $3.2 billion MVP—to be developed by EQT Midstream Partners; NextEra; Con Edison Transmission; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream—commits the same central failure of its draft review: failing to prove that the pipeline is needed. An independent study shows there is enough existing gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet consumer demand through 2030, while experts have warned that the gas industry is overbuilding pipeline infrastructure in West Virginia and Virginia. Key federal government agencies and officials have criticized FERC’s failure to properly determine a project’s need.

Former FERC Chairman and Director Norman Bay in his parting recommendations to the agency, urged the commission to rethink how it determines need when certifying natural gas pipelines. The Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency have also criticized FERC specifically for failing to address whether the MVP is needed, and a bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate to reform FERC’s approach to public engagement.

FERC has a history of greenlighting natural gas pipelines with insufficient reviews, resulting in dangerous leaks and spills.  The Rover Pipeline recently spilled millions of gallons of drilling chemicals into Ohio’s wetlands, the Sabal Trail pipeline leaked drilling chemicals underground into the Withlacoochee River in Florida, and the highly contentious Dakota Access pipeline has already suffered three leaks.

West Virginia and Virginia citizens opposed to the MVP say FERC has proven unable to properly assess the environmental risks of these pipelines, and its incomplete reviews have dealt a huge blow to public confidence, not to mention safety and the environment. MVP developers submitted more than 16,000 pages of information after the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued. The public did not have the opportunity to submit comments to FERC on the additional submittals. The NEPA review process for the MVP was bypassed by FERC.

While legal and environmental experts are continuing to review today’s document, they have initially identified major gaps in FERC’s Final EIS, including:

  • An accurate assessment of whether the project is needed and in the public interest;

  • Alternative analysis including development of energy efficiency, solar, and wind as alternatives to construction of pipelines;

  • A complete analysis of the cumulative, life-cycle climate pollution that would result from the pipeline;

  • A thorough and accurate analysis of visual impacts from the pipeline, including impacts to the iconic Appalachian Trail and potential damage to its tourism economy;

  • Cumulative impacts analysis of all environmental and human health damage from increased gas fracking in West Virginia that would supply the pipeline;

  • An analysis of the compound effects of multiple regional geo-hazards, including a meaningful analysis of the karst topography; and

  • A thorough review of damage to water quality and natural resources along and downstream from the pipeline route.

The coalition is committed to blocking the pipeline through every available avenue on the federal, state, and legal levels to assure that the very best options for energy, jobs, and landowner rights are considered.

Statements from affected landowners, community members, and environmental and legal experts:

  • Ty Bouldin, landowner in Summers County, West Virginia, stated: “The DEIS for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project was disheartening testimony to the inadequacies of FERC’s environmental assessment procedures. It failed to provide rational scientific standards for evaluating such impacts as were acknowledged. The DEIS simply argued that any impacts—however severe they might prove to be—would be judged acceptable. Such a conclusion was not valid given the inadequacies of the materials submitted by MVP, and it remains unacceptable as the basis for undertaking a responsible Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

  • Maury Johnson, affected landowner in Monroe County WV and The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Indian Creek Watershed Assoc. WV Rivers Coalition, and more, stated: “The Mountain Valley Pipeline will devalue our land, limit its uses and reduce taxes which support our schools and public services. It will jeopardize the safety and security of residents and anyone who visits the area where it is located. It will impact the water that we so much depend upon for our families, our farms and our communities. It will impact the world class water that comes from Peters Mountain in WV and VA. The impacts to the Jefferson National Forest and the Appalachian Trail will be severe and irreversible. It should be criminal to attempt such a pipeline when the profound environmental damage has not been adequately assessed by FERC, by West Virginia’s DEP or by Virginia’s DEQ.“

  • Andrew Downs, Regional Director, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, stated: “The public has never been allowed adequate access to this process which increasingly seems like it’s been driven by distant a bureaucracy. The devastation anticipated to the Jefferson National Forest and the iconic Appalachian Trail is a violation of the public trust that spans from nearly a century and into our uncertain future.”

  • Diana Christopulos, President, Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, stated: “The FEIS ignores the potential negative impacts of the project on public drinking water supplies on the Roanoke River, even though the pipeline’s own consultants reported a major increase in sedimentation in the North Fork of the Roanoke River that would travel all the way from Jefferson National Forest through the cities of Salem and Roanoke to either Niagara Dam or Smith Mountain Lake. The FERC never required to applicant to report fully on the sediment that would occur on the South Fork of the Roanoke River, which could have significant impacts on the same downstream communities.“

  • April Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance/West Virginia Sierra Club/Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, stated: “Not only are these new pipelines not needed, but they lock us into flammable, radioactive, climate warming methane use at a time when renewable energy is needed most. Renewable energy is more affordable than ever and has created more jobs than the fossil fuel market in recent years. FERC has refused to look at cumulative impacts of this and other projects in the same region, which is doing a real disservice to our public health and putting a chokehold on our economic opportunities.”

  • Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated: “Time and again, we’ve seen how FERC’s utter failure to honestly assess the impacts of massive, dangerous gas pipelines. We know this pipeline would result in massive climate pollution equivalent to 26 new coal-fired power plants. FERC’s own former chairman has urged the commission to reconsider how it evaluates environmental impacts, including climate change. If FERC was honest in its environmental accounting, it would have no choice but to reject the project.”

  • Dr. Richard Shingles, Coordinator, Preserve Giles County, “An obscure, independent regulatory agency, controlled by the very gas and oil industry it is supposed to regulate, has taken one more step in a fraudulent ‘public review’ process towards finalizing a predetermined decision. The FEIS ignores the scientific consensus as to the cumulative threats to communities, local economies and natural resources and the pipeline itself. The multiple geological hazards abound in this region should make it a ‘no build zone’ for large, interstate, high pressure gas pipelines. To date FERC has failed to require the applicant to show that these threats can be avoided or safely mitigated - an assurance that the scientific consensus demonstrates cannot be provided.”

  • Hugh Irwin, Landscape Conservation Planner, The Wilderness Society, stated: “Damage to national forest lands and values including wilderness, roadless lands, the Appalachian Trail, clean water, and wildlife habitat have been inadequately addressed, putting these public resources in jeopardy.”

  • Jerolyn Deplazes, Secretary, Preserve Newport Historic Properties, stated: “FERC has shown blatant disregard for the laws concerning the protection of historical properties in the process of reviewing the MVP. Four landowners in the Greater Newport Rural Historic District have been denied the right to consult with FERC, MVP and other cooperating agencies to develop alternatives to the proposed route of MVP. And many filings by the Greater Newport Rural Historic District Committee have been made pointing out the continually incorrect, misleading, and apparently deliberately incomplete information provided to FERC by MVP and the failure of FERC to require full corrective action by MVP. Without complete and correct data input to FERC, there is no way that FERC can make an informed decision on the MVP project.”

  • Ben Luckett, Staff Attorney, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, stated: “FERC’s failure to look at whether this pipeline is actually needed to serve the public, and not just the bank accounts of MVP’s shareholders, is absolutely galling. All too often, like with the recently completed Sabal Trail project, these new pipelines just shift gas away from existing infrastructure instead of offering any new beneficial service. Without a real market analysis, FERC can’t tell whether the pipeline’s extreme impacts to landowners, communities, and the environment will bring about any public benefit. Our independent studies indicate that they will not.”

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  Owner of West Virginia drug treatment clinic arrested

The owner of a West Virginia drug treatment center has been arrested after allegedly issuing a bad check to an employee.

New Beginnings Drug Treatment Center owner William Mucklow was charged with failing to compensate employee Lisa Hanger for two pay periods after her paycheck bounced. Hanger was among 20 staffers unexpectedly laid off in May, all of whom say they never received compensation for their last pay period.

Mucklow declined to comment after Friday’s arrest. He has previously said he owns former employees $30,000 and planned to pay them by July 01.

Mucklow in 2006 pleaded guilty to two counts of battery after caretakers said he fondled them while posing as having mental disabilities and needing his diapers changed.

►  Flint Group Pigments to close West Virginia plant

Flint Group Pigments is shuttering a West Virginia manufacturing facility because of a decline in demand for a dye used in printing ink.

The Herald-Dispatch reports about 50 people will lose their jobs when the Huntington plant closes. The company says the facility is exclusively dedicated to making alkali blue, a pigment used in magazine and book printing.

Ken Horton, the company’s vice president and general manager of pigments, chips and resins, says there has been a steep worldwide decline in demand because of the “changing face of communications.“

The plant first opened in 1912 and was operated by several successive companies until Flint Group Pigments bought it in 2005.

The company plans to keep operating the plant for the next months until the raw material inventory runs out.

►  FirstEnergy gives Pierpont C&TC $200K, hopes other businesses ‘step up and provide support’

The relationship between FirstEnergy Corporation and Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont took a giant leap forward Thursday morning. Officials from both entities held a joint event at the North Central Advanced Technology Center to celebrate a $200,000 grant from FirstEnergy’s Foundation to Pierpont over the next two years.

“We have a great partnership with Pierpont,” said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia operations. “They’re an organization that we work with to provide training hand-in-hand for our line workers and substation workers for Mon Power.”

The grant announcement was made only days after the state Legislature passed a budget which includes cuts to higher education. On Wednesday, Governor Jim Justice refused to sign the $4.225 billion budget, saying he will allow it to go into effect without his signature.

“It’s actually coincidental,” Kauffman said of the timing of the $200,000 award. “I am proud we are the first to step up. Everybody benefits from having people educated here and staying here in the community.”

Pierpont President Johnny M. Moore said the FirstEnergy Foundation grant process actually began eight months ago. But admitted Thursday’s announcement could set a new trend.

“Public and private partnerships have always been an integral part of Pierpont’s mission,” Moore said. And now, these types of partnerships will take on a whole new role, especially when you consider what’s happening in our state in terms of its budget.”

Half of the grant amount, $100,000, was presented to Moore, members of the Pierpont Community & Technology College’s Foundation and Board of Governors. It will be used to sustain and update program needs at the North Central Advanced Technology Center located in the I-79 High Tech Park.

“With this check,” Kauffman added, “I’m hoping to challenge other businesses to step up and provide similar support to our community colleges. They provide the skills that people need to succeed in West Virginia and stay in West Virginia.”

The Thursday announcement follows FirstEnergy’s investment of nearly $240,000 of in-kind contributions supporting Pierpont programming in the past five years. FirstEnergy and Pierpont first started working together, in support of academic programs, in 2012 when Pierpont began providing classroom instruction for FirstEnergy’s Power Systems Institute.

Jhaye Jones is Pierpont’s PSI program coordinator. He attended the grant announcement to thank FirstEnergy for its commitment.

“What we do is take our students and give them the academics that is required by FirstEnergy and help them in every way we can,” Jones said of the PSI program and its connection to FirstEnergy.

“This is an example of how industry and community colleges that are geared to put people to work in good jobs can cooperate,” he said. “My students are well known. They are extremely proud to be doing what they’re doing.”

According to a news release, the two-year PSI program combines classroom learning with hands-on training. Students who successfully complete the program earn an associate degree in electric utility technology, which can lead to a career as a line worker or substation electrician in the electric utility industry. Pierpont has graduated nearly 140 students since 2012 and their collective job placement rate is 100 percent.

“I firmly believe community colleges, particularly Pierpont in this region will become driving forces for our workforce,” Moore said. “We want to train people here and keep them here and with the generosity of companies like FirstEnergy can allow us to do that.”

Fresh from his election as the new chairman of the Pierpont Board of Governors, Chip VanAlsburg, who also attended the Thursday announcement, said the Pierpont and FirstEnergy partnership and collaboration will have a big impact across the state.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” VanAlsburg said. “We’re proving we can partner and collaborate with organizations that can help us move the job force forward.”  ~~  John Dahlia ~~

►  Greenbrier Valley Airport Receives $550K Federal Grant

The Greenbrier Valley Airport has been awarded a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Republican U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins says the money will be used to buy an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle, improving safety for passengers and crews.

Airport Director Stephen Snyder thanked federal and state officials for the working to obtain the grant. In his words: “Without funding at the federal and state level, these projects would be impossible.“

The airport in Lewisburg serves the Greenbrier, Homestead and Snowshoe Mountain resorts.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►  Valedictorian’s Speech Cut Off by Administrators

When Peter Butera got up to begin his valedictorian speech at his high school graduation ceremony in Exeter, Pa., on Friday, he probably never dreamed he’d be finishing it on Jimmy Kimmel Live! four days later. But on Tuesday night the 18-year-old class president appeared via Skype on the late-night talk show to recite the tail end of a speech that had been cut off by Wyoming Area Secondary Center administrators the week before. CBS Philly reports that administrators shut off Butera’s microphone after he veered off his pre-approved script to condemn what he called the “authoritative attitude” of some of the school’s faculty and staff, an attitude, he said, that “prevents students from developing as true leaders. Hopefully, this will change.“ At which point his mic went silent.

The Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice quotes a statement from principal Jon Pollard in which he explains he felt obligated to stop Butera’s speech in order to “ensure the remainder of [it] was not demeaning or derogatory to his classmates, the underclassmen, faculty, staff or administration.“ The Washington Post talks to a friend of Butera’s who says Butera was frustrated by having numerous ideas turned down by Pollard during his four years as class president. (Other off-script lines from Butera: “At our school, the title of class president can more accurately be class party planner. Student council’s main obligation is to paint signs every week.“) The Villanova-bound Butera doesn’t think his speech could have gone any better: “I got my point across and them cutting the microphone proved my point to be true.“

►  CIA Told Psychologists They’d Be to Blame for Terrorist Nuke

The two psychologists who were handsomely paid by the CIA to devise harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding say they had reservations about using them but were pressured by US security officials to keep going. “They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue,“ John Bruce Jessen said in a deposition given in connection with a civil suit brought by former detainees against him and colleague James Mitchell. The New York Times obtained the men’s video depositions—the case is scheduled to go to trial on September 05—and has a lengthy account. Some samples:

  • “Jim and I didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing,“ said JesSenator “We tried to get out several times and they needed us, and we—we kept going.“
  • “I think the word that was actually used is that you guys are pussies,“ said Mitchell, recounting CIA pressure. “There was going to be another attack in America and the blood of dead civilians are going to be on your hands.”
  • “I think any normal, conscionable man would have to consider carefully doing something like this,“ said JesSenator “I deliberated with great, soulful torment about this, and obviously I concluded that it could be done safely or I wouldn’t have done it.“
  • “It sucks, you know,“ Mitchell said of waterboarding. “I don’t know that it’s painful. I’m using the word ‘distressing.‘”
  • “There is a tether anchored to the ceiling in the center of the detention cell,“ said Mitchell in describing their sleep-deprivation method. “The detainee has handcuffs and they’re attached to the tether in a way that they can’t lie down or rest against a wall. They’re monitored to make sure they don’t get edema if they hang on the cuffs too much.“

►  Teen Jumps Into Lake, Is Killed by Electric Current

A college student in Ohio is dead after he jumped into Lake Erie to save his struggling father and family dog, reports the Cincinnati Inquirer. Evan Currie’s death wasn’t a straight-forward case of drowning, however—he was also electrocuted. Authorities say the family had just plugged in their boat at Put-in-Bay to draw power when their dog jumped or fell into the water. Dad Jeffrey Currie jumped in to help the dog, and when he began to struggle, 19-year-old Evan Currie and his brother jumped in to help their dad. At that point, those on shore realized what was happening, and power to the boat was cut off.

Everybody made it out of the water safely except Evan Currie, a student at Xavier University, and he could not be revived. “Evan sacrificed his life to try to save us,” Jeffrey Currie tells the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s a hero.“ The incident happened on Father’s Day. It’s the second such death to make the news this week, the other involving a girl in New Jersey. It’s not clear what happened in the Ohio incident, but authorities warn that improperly grounded docks and boat houses can send lethal currents of electricity into the water.

►  Michael Brown’s Parents Reach Deal With Ferguson

Nearly three years after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson, a settlement has been reached in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by his parents. A federal judge signed off on the civil settlement Tuesday but ordered most of the details to be kept secret, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which has been told by sources that the amount is less than $3 million. The parents, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, sued the city of Ferguson, former Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson, and Wilson, who was cleared of wrongdoing by federal investigators after shooting the unarmed black teenager.

In his ruling, US District Judge E. Richard Webber said the settlement, which will be split between the parents, was “fair and reasonable compensation.“ He ordered the agreement to remain sealed because making it public “could jeopardize the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators,“ the AP reports. The shooting led to protests across the country and to a blistering Department of Justice report on racial discrimination by the Ferguson police force. The Washington Post reports that Brown’s parents quoted extensively from the 2015 DoJ report in their lawsuit, which accused police of using excessive force in a pattern of misconduct that led to the shooting of their son.

►  Child Molester Allowed to Live Next Door to His Victim

Earlier this month, 21-year-old Danyelle Dyer happened to see her new next-door neighbor in Bristow, Oklahoma, out mowing the lawn. As she tells People, Dyer instantly recognized him—he’d been convicted of molesting her 14 years earlier. Dyer and her parents sought the help of authorities to make Harold English—her step-uncle—move, only to learn that while state law prevents predators from living near schools, it does not bar them from living near their victims. Now Dyer is pushing to change that. “I was pretty outraged, but I have channeled that rage into a more positive outlet, which, for me, is sharing my story and empowering other victims of sexual assault,” says Dyer. Another twist: English, 65, is living at his mother’s house, having moved in there upon his release from prison June 13.

Dyer is angry at her grandmother for allowing him to do so, but Betty Dyer tells CNN that it’s only temporary. “I think Danyelle is OK for trying to get a law passed,“ she says. “But she shouldn’t blame me for what happened because this is my son and I just give him a place to stay until he can find a place on his own.“ English is the step-brother of Dyer’s father, and Dyer says he repeatedly molested her when she was 7. Her parents hadn’t realized he had a prior conviction for sexually abusing a child when they allowed him to move in with the family for the summer. State Representative Kyle Hilbert says he hopes to get a law passed in the next legislative session that would prevent convicted predators from living near their victims, reports KFOR.

►  Making a Murderer Inmate Scores a Legal Victory

A big win for Brendan Dassey: A federal appeals court panel has ordered Wisconsin to retry the inmate within 90 days or set him free, Courthouse News reports. The Chicago-based 7th Circuit panel upheld a ruling that overturned his conviction last year in the case made famous by Netflix’s Making a Murderer. Dassey, now 27, was 16 years old when he was arrested for allegedly helping uncle Steven Avery rape and murder Theresa Halbach. He was interrogated without a parent or lawyer present and in Thursday’s 2-1 ruling, judges wrote that the “fact-feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey’s desire to please, the physical, fatherly assurances” led to a confession that should not be considered voluntary.

Dassey, who suffered from cognitive problems, recanted the confession but was sentenced to life in prison. Dissenting judge David Hamilton said the ruling “calls into question standard interrogation techniques that courts have routinely found permissible, even in cases involving juveniles.“ Dassey’s lawyers said they were elated by the ruling and will now work to get him back to his mother after 4,132 days in prison as of Thursday, the AP reports. Wisconsin’s Justice Department, which blocked Dassey’s release last fall, says it hopes the “erroneous decision will be reversed” by either the full 7th Circuit court or the US Supreme Court, reports Fox 6.

►  California Bans State Travel to Texas

A dispute between America’s two most populous states is heating up: California has banned state-funded travel to Texas, citing a law that allows foster care agencies to deny adoptions to LGBT families and others based on “sincerely held religious beliefs,“ reports the Texas Tribune. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday that Texas was being added to the list of states it considers to have discriminatory laws. “While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back,“ he said. The move bans California agencies and public universities from paying for work-related travel to Texas.

Alabama, Kentucky, and South Dakota were also added to the list Thursday. Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee were already there. Texas lawmakers are urging Governor Greg Abbott, who has frequently bashed California on Twitter, to reciprocate, the Dallas Morning News reports. “California may be able to stop their state employees,“ Abbott spokesman John Wittman said Thursday, “but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation, and relocating to Texas.“ California’s ban will affect college sports, though an exception for contracts already in place means teams might still be able to play in college basketball’s Final Four in San Antonio next year, the Tribune notes.

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