One of the southern coalfield counties recently reported over 46% of their school-aged children do not have a parent in the home. Following the expensive and ineffective trend of non-violent offender incarceration is that of jailing or institutionalizing children.
High poverty, at the top with illicit drug use, no treatment available puts us number 1 again and not in a good way. Serious issues that can not be fixed overnight. Hopefully the budget problem will be reolved and the Legislature will dedicate more time to study such pressing problems and work with community leaders of every county toward effective solutions.
To those who think it is all good and well for a male to be allowed to go do his business in a females bathroom, shower room or any where that is for females you are crazy. It should be the freedom of privacy of a female to feel safe, to those who do not see this way have no “common sense” “no sense of privacy” and are asking for trouble. A male has no business in my bathroom in a public place. You are allowing sexual perverts to also access our bathrooms. When you think a male can enter a females bathroom whether wearing male or female clothing you are asking for big trouble. What is wrong with the government? Stop this before someone is injured in some way. Transgenders should have a PRIVATE restroom for them in a single bathroom with a door that locks and have it marked for uni-sex or family restroom but one stall and a locking door. Females go in the females restroom, shower room, dressing rooms and males go in the men’s restroom, shower rooms and dressing rooms. Designate a separate room for any one other than a true female or male and leave the ones of us who believe this alone. What is so hard or difficult with that? It should be the majority of believers but in this administration it is if one person is offended let’s change to please them and to heck with everyone else. OK I am offended because I am not rich and I expect all of those with money to give it to me, new car, new house and all the rest. MY feelings are hurt. BOO HOO. Washington you have the ability to stop this bathroom issue. Remember you have a pen and phone. God created ADAM, a male and EVE a female. Two sexes male and female. GOD does not make mistakes so trying to add a third gender is WRONG and going against GOD. GOD HELP AMERICA!!!
More service building,gym and office area than classrooms. A whole lot of money for not much of anything to improve education. Not likely to see a fair shake from the WVBOE. Not until every available dollar is spent and that excess levy gets voted down. When the ones who treat a public checkbook as their own are in power consider yourself in trouble.
The WVBOE took precisely zero action on the Gilmer County OEPA agenda item in April.State Board members did not even vote to accept the report. It is expected it will be addressed on their May agenda.
Reporters say G. Devono made a statement to the BOE that he wanted that report changed.
Several closed door unprincipled meetings were held the day of the meeting and thereafter. One question.
Will state actions reveal the State Board of Education and the OEPA are controlled by intervention county Superintendents? Will the truth finally come out as to why the State Board fails repeatedly to improve the status of education in West Virginia? Could a large part of the failure be because of this unlawful and unethical alliance which excludes lawful,local boards of education whom they should be working with as elected liasons? Is the State Board of Ed more interested in creating a who’s who list for a silly Charleston clique than meeting the needs of the children?
Very good news about the forward movement regarding the dam removal project here in Oregon. Here in the Pacific NW, we’re very familiar with damn removal, particularly the largest dam removal project to date on the Elwa River in Washington state. Contrary to concerns, the Elwa project has increased the river delta estuary, lessoning what has been rapidly eroding. Looking forward to updates.
Good coaches are a lot like smartphones. Both can, if used correctly support and track our good qualities and bettering ourselves; both can are crucial in the area of sports (phones remind of of appointments and we receive necessary updates; both are used to make us self aware especially when things aren’t going well; both are big for encouraging and creating life skills of taking responsibility; both are very necessary in teaching how to attain goals, so important in individuals; both excel as confidence boosters and hopefully at the end are self confidence promoters; in both we become conscious of what we excel at and what we need to work on; and lastly the actual quality ultimately sets the tone our days. And coaches always effect us, both on and off the court. Big congratulations to coach Kim Stephens. Go Lady Pioneers!
You should ask Gabe Devono to make a learned community presentation at which he would review published results of valid studies done to evaluate pros and cons of middle schools in the USA.
Hucksters can make them sound good, but you know what? In general the schools did not produce as marketed. Read the education literature
If you have special “cultural” problems in Gilmer County which are not openly disclosed by Gabe Devono and other advocates for the middle school why haven’t your citizens been fully informed about them?
Say “special” cultural problems do exist, what are the options for dealing with them other than having a middle school? Surely, other options are available.
Sounds as if you may have school administration problems or ones which are manufactured to suit motives of a vested interest group.
When convincing reasons for doing something are not disclosed to the public to fail to gain acceptance by the majority there is a valid basis to suspect bogus motives.
Not one word of what the community wanted mattered when it came to closing our elementary schools. Not one word will matter now. Poor planning over and over by the state board of ed. No vision, no concern for the future. This middle school move is just a bandaid for Superintendent blunders. Now he’s dragging the sixth grade backwards with him.
Gilmer County needs and deserves a new Middle/High for 500. If it were built today we have the students to meet the required utilization scale without the sixth grade.
Our students should not have to settle for second class any longer.
Gabriel Blows His Own Horn Devono knows this. It should be an embarrassment to his handlers that he was not intelligent enough to come to such a conclusion and follow through.
Trying to force a middle school into an old elementary school closed by the WVBOE because it was inadequate to meet the needs, situated next to an industrial site and has no room for expansion should get him fired.
The OEPA findings point squarely at Devono’s inability to lead. Only the Superintendent could cause a lack of communication between himself and board. Under authority of the WVBOE only he could take action to correct absolutely anything.
Only the WVBOE could take action in providing G Devono with an EFFECTIVE MENTOR. Has Ted Mattern lost his touch or did Devono go rogue?
The Superintendent’s association said nobody else would take the job. Some believe that meant nobody but their own President F. Devono’s brother.
At least one more new school is needed here. This county has waited patiently as others received SBA funding over and over while architectural firms made billions.
Whether more cost effective to build once for five hundred or create two buildings on one site is for the architects and the School Building Authority to decide. How to pay for it is another matter but wasting money to force the placement of Gilmer students back into sub par, state closed facilities is unacceptable.
By TED MATTERN SUSAN O'BRIEN WVSBA WVBOE? on 04.20.2016
G-ICYMI™: Another School District Dropping 90 Positions
Kanawha schools dropping 90 positions
Kanawha County’s school system is planning for about 90 fewer positions next fiscal year because of a projected $2.3 million revenue drop — although officials say those position cuts won’t equal nearly that many actual layoffs.
Treasurer Lisa Wilcox cautioned that the proposed $233.8 million 2016-17 budget, which the school board plans to approve late next month ahead of the July 1 start of the fiscal year, could still change, based on what the West Virginia Legislature and governor approve for the 2016-17 state budget.
“We may end up having to really, seriously rework our budgets,” Wilcox said. “Not just me, but all counties.”
Kanawha County Schools’ proposed budget already has seen $3 million in increased revenue projections since it was revealed March 8. Wilcox said there wasn’t suddenly that much more unrestricted money available: the change was because of the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board voting on March 30 to — with lawmakers still not having passed a budget to provide more funding to the public health insurance system — significantly change employees’ coverage.
That forced Kanawha’s preliminary budget to add $3 million in expected extra PEIA revenue to cover extra PEIA expense.
Kim Olsen, Kanawha County Schools’ human resources specialist for the “professional” employees category, which includes teachers, said there are 52 teacher position cuts planned for next school year.
But she said those cuts have led to only two Garnet Career Center teachers altogether losing guaranteed jobs next school year, along with two other teachers in the county losing guaranteed jobs because two more Garnet teachers whose positions are on the chopping block are planning to take their positions.
State law is requiring the school system to make most personnel decisions before the school board passes the budget for next fiscal year.
Teachers with more years of experience who lose their positions are allowed by state law to take the positions of educators with fewer years.
Tabetha Gillespie, H.R. specialist for the “service” employees, which includes custodians and classroom aides, said plans are to cut 36 positions in her category: 17 aides, nine cooks, three maintenance workers, three mechanics, one computer operator, one services coordinator and one full-day secretary, plus one full-day secretary cut to half-time and one full-day custodian cut to half-time.
Gillespie said that’s resulted in about 20 people losing guaranteed jobs for next school year.
Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said the position cuts won’t cause an increase in the student-faculty ratio. Much of the budget revenue decrease is because of a 590-student drop from last school year to this one.
The state uses the current school year’s enrollment numbers to calculate per-pupil funding for next school year, and that funding formula automatically decreases dollars for counties that lose enrollment, save for exceptions in those counties that already have fewer than 1,400 students.
Because of numerous annual retirements among their aging workforces, West Virginia school systems often can cut many positions each year without completely knocking current employees out of jobs. Workers might still be forced to transfer into positions they don’t want if their own positions are cut or if more experienced employees want their jobs.
Because not all current workers have announced whether they will resign or retire at the end of this school year, it’s possible some of the employees who don’t have guaranteed jobs next school year will be offered them.
The 52 teacher position cuts and 36 service personnel position cuts also don’t include the temporary itinerant regular employee positions that technically expire at the end of each school year. School system H.R. Director Carol Hamric said these TIRE positions aren’t specifically planned in the budget.
Instead, she said, they’re added after the school year begins, in areas where there are unexpected influxes of students requiring more workers. These positions, therefore, provide more possibilities for those workers who currently are not guaranteed a job next school year.
The preliminary budget includes $2.7 million less for wages and benefits because of the planned position reductions, retirement of more experienced teachers and a $1.1 million decrease in the substitute teacher budget that the school system hopes to offset with carryover money from this fiscal year.
The school system is required to pay higher salaries to teachers with more years of experience and higher degrees.
Repair and maintenance expects to see a $300,000 cut. Wilcox said that area could use as much money as it can get, but the cut was necessary.
Other planned cuts include a halving of the $60,000 that Elementary Education Executive Director Bob Calhoun said went this school year to the Socrates program, which funds Prestera psychologists who meet with kids about every two weeks, or as-needed. Calhoun said children in the program, which served 50 kids this school year, have behavior issues for various reasons.
He said the cut will mean Socrates won’t be able to help as many children who don’t have health insurance, although he didn’t know how many fewer.
Duerring said there’s a planned $91,000 decrease in summer school funding because, historically, the school system hasn’t needed that much. Mark Milam, Kanawha’s assistant superintendent for high schools and career and technical centers, said the school system is adding Riverside High as a summer school testing site.
► Terminating parental rights: State policies vary widely
For child-welfare agencies across the United States, it’s the ultimate sanction: terminating the rights of parents to raise their own children due to concerns about abuse and neglect.
All states resort to this step when deemed necessary for a child’s well-being, but there are wide state-to-state disparities in the rate of terminations and the extent of support services to avoid foster care placements. According to federal data, some states terminate parental rights at a rate 25 times higher than states at the low end of the scale.
Calling for reforms to help more families stay together are many child welfare officials and academics, and also some parents who’ve faced the threat of termination proceedings themselves.
Among them is Denise Moore of Des Moines, Iowa, a mother of seven who nearly lost her parental rights after her arrest in 2003 for conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Caseworkers allowed the children to remain in their home in the care of their grandmother, but ordered Moore to vacate the house and follow a regimen that would end her addiction to meth.
Over an 18-month span, Moore failed to accomplish this, but her caseworker gave her one last chance at a meeting where all seven of the children were present. Grateful for the reprieve, Moore overcame her addiction, enrolled in college and is now working with a state-backed program that assists families during their initial contacts with the child welfare system.
Moore says her children, ranging in age from 12 to 27, are all thriving; one son hopes to become a family-law attorney. But she says the support she and her family received was the exception, not the rule.
“I think we terminate too easily,“ she said. “I always believe that families can change, and we just need to find the right intervention to help them get there.“
Each state has its own system for dealing with cases in which termination of parental rights is considered. Federal law spells out certain conditions and timelines, but states interpret and apply them differently.
An Associated Press analysis of data compiled by federal officials shows some striking variations. Maryland, for example, had a rate of 10.5 parental rights terminations for every 100,000 children in 2014; at the high end of the scale, the rate per 100,000 children was 283 in neighboring West Virginia and 252 in Oklahoma.
Even looking only at the children placed in foster care, there are pronounced differences. Children affected by a termination order accounted for about 30 percent of the 30,358 youths in the Texas foster care system; Maryland tallied only 142 children affected by termination orders — about 3.5 percent of its foster care population of 4,032.
Economic, cultural and political differences among states partly explain the variances.
In West Virginia and Oklahoma, the high termination rates are fueled to a large extent by severe drug abuse problems. West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths, and Oklahoma has the highest rate of incarcerating women — many of them single mothers who are the sole caregiver for their children.
Both states have struggling economies, and advocacy groups say there is inadequate funding for services that might help fragile families stay together, such as quality child-care programs, mental health care and drug treatment programs.
“The money is just not there,“ said Terry Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “Services get cut, and the result you get is abuse, neglect and termination.“
Across the country, the availability of effective support services is viewed as crucial in helping reduce the need for foster care placements and parental rights terminations, both of which are considered undesirable outcomes for most children.
Professor Martin Guggenheim, a child welfare expert at New York University School of Law, is among those contending that too many parents lose their rights and too many children go into foster care. Parents’ legal prospects vary widely from state to state when it comes to challenging termination, he says; many who are indigent are represented by court-appointed lawyers with heavy caseloads.
Too often, Guggenheim said, terminations produce “legal orphans” — young people who are separated from their parents, then do not receive a successful adoption placement, and eventually age out of the foster care system on their own.
“They’ve lost their family and gained nothing in return,“ he said.
Nationwide, according to federal figures, the number of children affected by parental rights terminations declined from 85,525 to 64,398 between 2005 and 2014, mirroring a broader drop in the number of children placed in foster care. Arizona and Texas were among a handful of states bucking the trend, with more terminations and more children in care.
Figures from Arizona show how difficult it is for a parent to block a termination order once it’s requested by child-welfare officials. In a six-month period last year, 2,232 termination petitions were granted and seven were denied.
Under federal law, states are required to file for termination of parental rights after a child has spent 15 of the previous 22 months in foster care. However, there are exceptions — for example, in cases when the state agency documents a “compelling reason” why termination is not in a child’s best interest, or when a state has failed to provide services necessary for a family’s reunification.
States have taken widely divergent approaches to the federal timeline, said Christopher Church, a policy expert with the Children’s Law Center at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
In some states, he said, there’s strong interest in handling cases on an individualized, family-specific basis in deciding if and when a termination should be sought. In other states, “it’s like an alarm clock that goes off,“ Church said. “They feel they have to file for termination regardless of a family’s current situation.“
In Texas, the high rate of parental rights terminations has developed against a backdrop of major problems for the state’s child-welfare system. There has been turnover in senior leadership, a class-action lawsuit alleging pervasive flaws, and controversy over the deaths of some foster children.
Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, cited several factors behind the termination rate: rampant drug abuse, lack of engagement on the part of some parents, and the inability of other parents to address risk factors under the timetables that govern foster care and adoption placements.
For legal reasons, children in foster care can be adopted only after a termination of parental rights. Critics of the Texas system say it is sometimes too quick to conclude that adoption is the best outcome for a child, and doesn’t give biological parents an adequate chance to address problems so their child could stay with them.
“We give up on parents very quickly in Texas,“ said Will Francis, government relations director at the Texas chapter of National Association of Social Workers. “We believe adoptions are much more of a cure-all than they really are.“
Johana Scot of the Austin-based Parent Guidance Center said many parents are unable to reunify with children taken into foster care because of lack of legal and other services that could help them. Once termination proceedings begin, she argued, “there’s a culture of bias against the biological parent.“
Crimmins, in an email, said his department works toward family reunification in all cases where a child is removed from home, “unless the court finds aggravated circumstances.“
He cited several initiatives aimed at promoting reunification, such as a program arranging for biological parents to visit with their children when they’re in foster care. In the San Antonio area, District Judge Peter Sakai has been spearheading an initiative aimed at resolving child-welfare cases more quickly, with the aim of avoiding unnecessary foster-care placements and terminations.
“For the most part, our cases are tied to poverty, drugs, lack of mental health services,“ Sakai said. “If we empower the families, we can reunify them.“
Oklahoma and West Virginia also are taking steps to reduce terminations.
West Virginia recently launched a program that seeks to reduce the number of 12-to-17-year-olds in foster care, supporting services so they can stay with their families or elsewhere in their community. Katelynn Burns, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services, said 700 child-welfare positions have been added in the past four years, easing workloads so caseworkers have more time to interact with parents.
Hiring more caseworkers in New Jersey was cited by Allison Blake, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, as helping lower that state’s rate of terminations — now 44 per 100,000 children, roughly half the national rate.
In Maryland, where the rate of terminations has been among the lowest for a decade, the Department of Human Resources cites two initiatives as key factors.
One is the Guardianship Assistance Program, which places at risk-children with relatives who get ongoing financial assistance while seeking to become the child’s legal guardian. The program, which has encompassed more than 2,800 children at a time, allows relatives to take full legal responsibility for a child without terminating parental rights, so children can maintain contact with their biological parents.
The other initiative, called Alternative Response, seeks ways to work with at-risk families to keep children in their own homes, rather than remove them, after a report of suspected abuse or neglect is received.
“Children remaining safely at home or with family is always preferable to placement in foster care,“ said Katherine Morris, a human resources department spokeswoman.
Through organizations such as the Birth Parent National Network , some parents who’ve lost children through termination orders have become forceful advocates for keeping at-risk families together.
Among them is Kimberly Mays, a mother of 10 from Washington state, who lost parental rights to nine of her children during years of drug abuse and criminal conveictions. She kicked her drug habit, prevailed in a bid to raise to raise her 10th child, earned a master’s degree, and now works with the Parents Representation Program of the state’s Office of Public Defense.
She recalls being deceived and belittled during her multiple termination proceedings, and wishes caseworkers would take an approach that’s supportive rather than punitive.
“Take the time to get to know the parent’s real story, and not be judging them or looking down on them,“ she said. “You need to understand that people can change. The past doesn’t dictate a person’s future.“
► Search for help a key to dealing with child’s autism
BECKLEY, WV — Kelly Thompson grieves for the days before her 6-year-old son Wyatt became a full-time student. Those long, lazy days she enjoyed spending at home with her little boy.
But though she wishes she could keep the Daniels Elementary kindergartner little forever, the joys of watching him successfully navigate his first year as a “big boy” is probably worth the tradeoff.
Wyatt, Thompson explains, was like all babies, hitting every milestone until he was 15 months old.
“He just stopped talking, stopped laughing, stopped playing,“ she said. “He sat and stared at the wall for months and months after that and just cried.“
Thompson said she and her husband were at a loss and uncertain were to turn for help. “The pediatrician said, ‘some kids just do that,‘“ she recalled. “We took her word for a little while and he didn’t come out of it.“
Three months later, Thompson ran into Angela Akers, who works with Janet Lintala at Autism Health, formerly The Autism Recovery Resource Center.
“I had been friends with Angela for years and when she said, ‘How’s my little man (Wyatt)?‘ I broke down,“ she said. “She put her arm around me and said, ‘tell me what’s going on.‘“
Akers guided Thompson to Autism Health, where she said Lintala began “connecting dots I couldn’t quite connect.“
Thompson said she received information on autism and, “the more I read through it, I said, ‘yep this is it.‘ I knew it was autism. All the way down the page.“
After an evaluation, Lintala made diet recommendations, suggesting digestive enzymes and probiotics to help to promote beneficial bacteria.
“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, I don’t know what any of this has to do with speech delays or his new tendencies,“ Thompson said.
But she and her husband Stephen decided to try anything that wouldn’t harm their son.
“I wasn’t expecting much,“ she said, “but it was amazing to see the difference with his acid reflux, irritable bowel and all these things. He was calmer and didn’t cry nearly as much and you could tell his mind was starting to clear.“
That’s something Lintala says research shows. Treating the underlying health problems caused by autism can actually help improve the quality of life of an autistic person and help him function at a higher level.
And as Wyatt began to feel better, Thompson said that’s exactly what happened.
“Every now and then he would look at us and make eye contact,“ she said. “Eventually, he would interact with us again. Six or eight months in, he wanted snuggles and hugs and wanted us to play with him again.
“He still had issues, but less severe.“
Through it all, Wyatt worked with a battery of therapists — speech, occupational and physical — who helped him along his journey.
Thompson says another thing that has helped was learning the results of a food sensitivity and intolerance study Wyatt underwent when he was 3.
“His results came back off the charts,“ she said. “He tested for 96 foods and was sensitive to about half of them.“
It turned out, she said, Wyatt was having digestive tract and constipation issues of which she was unaware. After instituting a special elimination diet — also at the suggestion of Lintala — she said those issues cleared.
“It was amazing how much better he was,“ she said.
Wyatt is still categorized is non-verbal, although Thompson says he does speak now.
“He doesn’t have spontaneous speech,“ she said. “He can’t answer a question. He’ll repeat a question because he doesn’t understand he’s supposed to respond to that and he doesn’t know how to respond.“
There’s an exception to that, however. Through many hours of hard work, Wyatt has learned to answer basic direct questions.
“I can ask him, ‘what do you want?‘ and he can say, ‘I want ice cream, please,‘“ she said. “But I can’t ask him general questions and expect to get an answer.
In recent weeks, he’s learned his name and in the past few days, he’s learned to answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions.
Hearing her child say his name for the first time was something Thompson said she’ll never forget.
“I was in tears,“ she said. “You watch your kid struggle every day. He works so hard every day to learn things typical kids do.“
But there’s one area in which he’s never struggled.
“He can read and he reads well,“ Thompson said. “I work with him every day.“
Learning Wyatt was autistic, Thompson said, was heartbreaking, as she began to question the future she had always imagined for her little boy.
“You kind of go through a grieving period. It’s almost like you lost your child at first. You know they won’t have the life you envisioned, maybe won’t drive a car, have a girlfriend or have a job.
“As a parent, you have this tiny, little baby and you’re thinking, one day you’ll be a big boy and you’ll go to prom with a girl and go off to college. So you kind of grieve for a while.“
But Thompson’s grieving period was short, and she that’s important, because the key is remaining hopeful and searching for help.
And knowing that both exist.
“You go through a grieving phase, yes, but once you come out of it be grateful you were blessed with a child.
“It’s not a death sentence,“ she continued. “It’s not the end of the world.“
► A look at other primary races in West Virginia
CHARLESTON, WV — They’re not running for president, governor, Congress or the state Supreme Court, yet some candidates in West Virginia’s May 10 primary are hoping for the chance to earn their party’s nominations for several statewide offices. Here is a summary of those races:
SECRETARY OF STATE
Democrat Natalie Tennant is seeking her third term as secretary of state. The former broadcaster is touting her office’s efforts to modernize elections through online voter registration.
Tennant faces Harrison County Delegate Patsy Trecost in the May 10 primary.
According to Tennant’s office, 10,650 new voters have registered online since September 30. There are about 1.42 million registered voters — the most for a primary this century and 16,000 more voters than the 2012 primary.
Tennant said on her campaign website that the online registration has “lifted barriers and made the election process more accessible to every eligible voter, at the same time, protecting the integrity of our elections.“
Trecost said he doesn’t want the secretary of state’s office to be used as a stepping stone to another political office. “I actually want the job,“ he said in a video campaign ad.
In 2014, Tennant unsuccessfully sought the U.S. Senate seat in 2014 won by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.
The Republicans running for secretary of state are retired military attorney Mac Warner of Morgantown and industrial operations manager Barry Holstein of Cross Lanes.
Glen Gainer III’s move to the private sector means that for the first time in four decades, a member of his family won’t be the state auditor.
His father, Glen Gainer Jr., was the state auditor from 1976 to 1992. The younger Gainer took over in 1993 and served six terms. The Democrat announced in mid-April that he’s stepping down May 14 to take a job with an unspecified nonprofit group.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin would have to pick a replacement to serve the remaining seven months of Gainer’s term.
Former acting Secretary of Administration Jason Pizatella faces former auditor’s office employee Mary Ann Claytor and Robin Righter of Shinnston in the Democratic primary. State Delegate JB McCuskey of Charleston is unopposed in the Republican primary and will face the winner of the Democratic primary on November 8.
A Republican state auditor hasn’t been elected since 1928. Republican Litz McGuire was appointed in June 1960 to serve the remaining six months after the previous officeholder’s death.
West Virginia’s longest-serving state treasurer, John Perdue, is unopposed in the Democratic primary and is seeking his sixth term in the fall. Charleston bank executive Ann Urling and state Delegate Larry Faircloth are running in the Republican primary.
No Republican has serve as state treasurer since Ronald Pearson in 1976.
Half of the 34 state Senate seats and one unexpired seat are up for grabs this fall. Of the 18 races, 10 on the GOP side and five on the Democratic side are contested.
Three Democratic senators and one Republican aren’t seeking re-election, including Democratic Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, who is running for governor. Three Republican appointees face their first elections as senators.
Two Republicans and one Democrat are vying for an unexpired 3rd District seat. Republican David Nohe resigned last year to fill a vacancy on the West Virginia Parole Board. Bob Ashley was appointed to Nohe’s seat. But instead of seeking the remaining two years of that seat, he is challenging incumbent Senator Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, for the other 3rd District seat.
Republicans hold an 18-16 majority in the Senate.
HOUSE OF DELEGATES
In the House, where all 100 seats are on the ballot, nine Republicans and seven Democrats didn’t file for re-election.
Republicans hold a 64-36 House majority.
ON TO NOVEMBER
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is unopposed in the Republican primary and will face Democrat Doug Reynolds on November 08.
State Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick has no opponent in the Democratic primary. He’ll go against Republican Kent Leonhardt in the fall.
Too bad moving involves getting off the couch. Realtor.com has found the 10 best US cities “where lazy folks can thrive,“ based on several factors, including average sleep and work hours, the number of spas and hot tubs, access to services like dog walking and grocery delivery, and the price of having cleaners do your dirty work. The takeaway: Floridians have it pretty sweet. The top six:
When John Paul Roccaforte took his two dogs outside a little after 1am on April 16 during a snowstorm, 2-year-old black Lab mix Marley wouldn’t stop barking, the Arizona Republic reports. “He just wouldn’t let up. He was relentless,“ Roccaforte tells the Arizona Daily Sun. “It was high-alert, letting us know. I couldn’t get him to come in.“ Eventually, Roccaforte heard something else: moaning from the woods behind his Flagstaff home, and then a voice crying for help.
Roccaforte called 911, and the responding officers heard the same thing and followed the voice to an injured hiker at the base of Mount Elden. The man, who was apparently intoxicated and suffering from hypothermia, was wearing only a T-shirt, pants, and one shoe. “If that dog hadn’t heard him out there, he would have definitely frozen to death for sure,“ a responding officer tells the Sun. “He couldn’t even walk. Without a doubt, he would have died due to exposure.“ The hiker was hospitalized, and Marley was rewarded with extra treats.
► America Is Getting Another National Animal
The bald eagle’s 234-year reign as the sole symbolic animal of the US is about to come to an end. The National Bison Legacy Act passed by Congress—and expected to pass the Senate next week, per CNN—denotes the bison as America’s national mammal and a “historical symbol of the United States,“ joining the bald eagle as the national animal, the oak as the national tree, and the rose as the national flower, reports the Guardian. Though the move will come with no additional protections for bison, a rep for the Wildlife Conservation Society says it’s a “milestone in a long journey … to prevent the bison from going extinct and to recognize the bison’s ecological, cultural, historical, and economic importance.“ It’s also fitting since the bison “is as strong as the oak, fearless as the bald eagle, and inspiring as a rose.“
“No other indigenous species tells America’s story better,“ says Representative William Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, who was among those to write and sponsor the bipartisan bill. It’s “an enduring symbol of strength, Native American culture, and the boundless Western wildness.“ The animal—already the state mammal of Wyoming and state animal of Oklahoma and Kansas, a WCS rep writes at the Huffington Post—“has had a special place in the lives of tribal people since time immemorial and played important roles in our culture, religion and lifestyle,“ adds a rep for the Inter Tribal Buffalo Council, which led the effort on behalf of some 60 tribes, groups, and businesses. Pushed to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century, bison now number 400,000 in commercial herds across the country, with another 30,000 in the wild.
► Secret Service: We’re Making White House Fence ‘Taller, Stronger’
If you build it, they won’t come. That’s what the Secret Service is hoping its new plan to raise the White House fence by 5 feet will mean, the latest effort, after a lot of red tape, to stop people from trying to jump it, NBC Washington reports. Per an agency report and a Secret Service statement cited by CNN, anticipated construction on the “taller, stronger” fence would begin in 2018, lengthening the fence from 6 feet to 11 feet 7 inches and adding a new concrete “footing” and “foundation,“ as well as other “anti-climb features” and “intrusion detection technology.“
“The current fence simply is not adequate for a modern era,“ a Secret Service official said in the recorded brief. “[We] have now a society that tends to want to jump over the fence and onto the 18 acres.“ Donald Trump was one of the first to react to the news, the Hill reports. The “presumptive” GOP nominee put up a Facebook post that read: “President Obama understands that you build strong, tall, beautiful walls to keep people out who don’t belong. People who get permission can enter the White House LEGALLY!“
► Thousands of New Yorkers Named in ISIS ‘Hit List’
Hackers affiliated with ISIS posted the names of thousands of New York City residents online Sunday with the message “We want them #Dead,“ NBC New York reports. According to Reuters, the list contains home and email addresses. The “hit list” includes up to 3,600 New Yorkers, UPI reports. A few are State Department and Homeland Security employees, but most are regular citizens with no connection to the government. In fact, most don’t even seem to be politically active. One such regular New Yorker is 88-year-old Art, who tells NBC he’s not too worried despite a visit from the FBI. “It sounds like psychological warfare,“ he says. “Make 3,000 people in this city very upset.“
Authorities seem to agree with Art on that. While the FBI and police are notifying residents named on the list, they say they don’t believe there is any credible or specific threat to anyone. The FBI states it “routinely notifies individuals and organizations of information collected during the course of an investigation that may be perceived as potentially threatening in nature.“ Authorities believe the list is simply a “scare campaign” from hacker group Caliphate Cyber United. It’s unclear where the group got the names and addresses. ISIS and affiliated groups have previously released similar “kill lists” targeting prominent Muslim-Americans, members of the US military, and Minnesota police.
► Green Beret Won’t Be Discharged for Attacking Alleged Child Rapist
The Army has decided not to discharge a Special Forces soldier who beat up an Afghan police official he believed had been raping a young boy, CNN reports. Sgt. Charles Martland and Capt. Daniel Quinn claimed in 2011 that Afghan police commander Abdul Rahman had been raping the boy repeatedly for more than a week. According to the New York Times, Rahman kept the boy chained to a bed as a “sex slave.“ Martland and Quinn went to their superiors, who refused to do anything, saying it was a matter for Afghan authorities. Nothing was done about Rahman, and Martland later told Army officials, “Morally we could no longer stand by.“ When Quinn and Martland confronted Rahman, he tried to laugh off the rape, Fox News reports. So they attacked him, kicking him and body slamming him multiple times.
Martland and Quinn were sent home from Afghanistan. Quinn left the Army, while authorities delayed a decision to discharge Martland for years. Then on Thursday, in what Fox News calls a “stunning reversal,“ the Army announced it would not be discharging him. “I am real thankful for being able to continue to serve,“ Martland tells Fox News. Quinn says he thinks it was the smart move for the Army. “Charles makes every soldier he comes in contact with better, and the Army is undoubtedly a better organization with SFC Martland still in its ranks,“ he says. Martland, who served in Afghanistan twice and earned a Bronze Star, was supported by Representative Duncan Hunter of California, the American Center for Law and Justice, and actor Harvey Keitel.
► Fishermen Use Friend’s Ashes to Reel In Huge Fish
In a sweet—and maybe also a little bit weird—move, two fishermen honored a fellow fisherman who passed away by turning his ashes into bait and using it to reel in a huge carp. Paul Fairbrass and Cliff Dale were planning a fishing trip to Thailand with Ron Hopper, 64, but he died of cancer beforehand, the Telegraph reports. During a deathbed talk (at which a bottle of rum was passed around, the friends tell the BBC), the three UK men agreed to the plan: Fairbrass and Dale, both 65, took half of Hopper’s ashes (his widow scattered the other half on a beach) and turned them into a type of bait known as “boilies” using a special bait mix. They named the bait “Purple Ronnie,“ and used it throughout their nine-day vacation.
At first, they caught only a few smaller fish with the bait, but then decided to try casting off from the same position Hopper did during a fishing trip the trio took last year when he reeled in a carp weighing 150 pounds. The result? It took Fairbrass and Dale three hours to reel in their prize: a carp weighing 180 pounds. “We were gutted that Ron couldn’t come on the trip because he was really looking forward to it, but he was definitely with us when we caught that fish,“ Fairbrass says. Adds Dale, “It felt spiritual, it felt like Ron was there with us.“ They returned the fish to the lake to live out his days being known as “Ronnie.“
► Mom Gives Birth on Plane, Names Baby After Airline
A pregnant woman went into labor on a Jetstar Asia flight from Singapore to Burma last Friday ... and named the baby after the airline, BuzzFeed reports. “We’re most pleased to announce that a baby boy, named Saw Jet Star, was delivered safely onboard 3K583 by a team of doctors and the crew after the flight landed in Yangon,“ the airline announced in a Facebook post this week. “The baby boy weighed six pounds, seven ounces and is the FIRST baby to be delivered on a Jetstar Asia flight.“
Three doctors who happened to be on the flight helped the mom, and the airline says other passengers applauded when the baby was safely delivered. Both mom and baby are doing well, and Jetstar donated $1,000 worth of baby items to Jet Star. “Our crew are trained to respond to all kinds of events on our aircraft, and we’re proud of the way they assisted with the help of generous doctors onboard to ensure the safe delivery of our youngest ever passenger,“ the airline says in a statement.
► Not Enough Mail, So Finland’s Postal Service Will Mow Lawns
The USPS isn’t the only woebegone postal service. Things are bad enough in Finland that the state-owned Posti is getting into ... lawn care. Under the new program, which begins next month, postal workers will mow residents’ lawns each Tuesday, when mail volumes are typically lower, broadcaster Yle reports. Interested Finns can go online to order the service, which will run from May 17 through August. A weekly 30-minute cut will cost about $74 a month, and homeowners must provide the mower. In a press release, Posti head Anu Punola says she anticipates that people will be “happy to outsource lawn mowing,“ adding that the idea came from the mail carriers themselves. Last year, Posti reported losses of about $85 million, per the Atlantic, with delivery volumes down to 1960s levels.
Nonetheless, Posti says, mail service is provided to 2.8 million households and “new home services will see it transform increasingly into a service company.“ Indeed, the Atlantic notes Posti launched a 12-month pilot program in February where, in partnership with a health-services company, postal workers will visit the homes of people with disabilities and do light chores, like warming up meals and helping with eating. “Posti’s network of professionals reaches both densely and sparsely populated areas every weekday,“ points out a press release. As for the mowing, some are grumbling. The BBC reports a group that represents property maintenance companies is concerned postal workers don’t have the “expertise” to operate lawnmowers, adding, “It is hard to believe that just anyone can start to cut lawns.“
► Daytime Cooking Banned During Deadly Indian Heatwave
Faced with deadly fires during a blistering weeks-long heatwave, one Indian state has made the “unprecedented” move of banning daytime cooking, the Guardian reports. “After a review of fire incidents, we’ve seen that most of them were caused by cooking fires,“ a senior disaster management official tells the BBC. Those fires have killed between 67 and 79 people over the past month. The new ban prohibits cooking between 9am and 6pm in the state of Bihar, punishable by up to a year in jail. It also forbids religious fire rituals and burning old crops. According to the International Business Times, 10 children were killed in a fire that started during a religious ceremony.
Temperatures have risen above 111 degrees during the Indian heatwave, and the accompanying drought has left at least 333 million people without an adequate amount of water. More than 300 people have died from the heatwave this month, and monsoon rains aren’t expected to bring relief until June.
► Iraq Protesters Storm Green Zone
Hundreds of protesters climbed over the blast walls surrounding Baghdad’s highly-fortified Green Zone for the first time on Saturday and stormed into parliament, carrying Iraqi flags and chanting against the government. The breach marked a major escalation in the country’s political crisis following months of anti-government protests, sit-ins, and demonstrations by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the AP reports. The Green Zone is home to most ministries and foreign embassies and has long been the focus of al-Sadr’s criticism of the government. Earlier Saturday, al-Sadr accused Iraqi politicians of blocking political reforms aimed at combating corruption and waste.
While al-Sadr didn’t call for an escalation to the protests, shortly after his remarks his supporters began scaling the compound’s walls. A group of young men then pulled down a section of concrete blast walls to cheers from the crowd of thousands gathered in the streets outside. Cellphone video uploaded to social media showed dozens of young men running through the halls of parliament, chanting slogans in support of al-Sadr and calling for the government to disband. Hours earlier, a bombing in a market filled with Shiite civilians in Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 42 others, according to police and hospital officials. ISIS claimed the attack, saying it used a three-ton truck bomb.
To help assure every child has a healthy start and is ready to learn when pre-school or kindergarten begins, WVCHIP supports the Kids First initiative. Kids First is about every child entering pre-school or kindergarten having the opportunity for a comprehensive wellness exam, and starting this year, also a preventive dental exam!
Read the letter HERE , to Parents and Caretakers of preschool and kindergarten children to find out more, and also go to the following links for the form you need depending on the age of the student:
Governor Tomblin Endorses Hillary Clinton for President
CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today endorsed Hillary Clinton for president:
Although I remain concerned about some of Secretary Clinton’s positions on fossil fuels, I believe she is the best choice to unite the Democratic Party and, after being elected president in November, our country. I have had discussions with former President Bill Clinton and representatives from Secretary Clinton’s campaign and believe Hillary Clinton is committed to working with us to diversify West Virginia’s economy while continuing to find ways to use our abundant coal and natural gas to power the nation.
The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination is scheduled to visit Ashland, Kentucky, and Williamson, West Virginia, on Monday. She will visit West Virginia and Ohio on Tuesday, but details of those stops are not yet available.
In a news release, the campaign said Clinton will meet with voters and discuss her plans to raise incomes for people in overlooked or underserved communities. The Appalachian region has been economically devastated by the decline in the coal industry.
Republicans have criticized Clinton for her comments earlier this year that her policies would put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. Clinton later said she was mistaken and said she is committed to coalfield workers and communities.
► West Virginia billionaire spends $2M for governor primary
CHARLESTON, WV — In his bid for governor, West Virginia billionaire businessman Jim Justice has spent more than $2 million before the May 10 Democratic primary.
In campaign finance filings tracking through April 24, Justice spent $2.1 million since his campaign started. He put almost $2 million of his money in the race and has raised $683,700.
Ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has spent $302,100 and raised $367,600 in the race.
The third Democratic candidate, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, didn’t immediately report fundraising numbers. Through late March, Kessler spent $140,500 and raised $213,800.
Reports are due by the end of Friday.
The winner faces Republican Senate President Bill Cole in November.
Cole’s latest report wasn’t yet available. Through late March, he spent $467,300 and raised $1.1 million.
All four are running TV ads.
► After 2012 stunner, ex-con makes another White House run
CHARLESTON, WV — When Hillary Clinton tries to vanquish Bernie Sanders in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary next month, she will also have to watch out for Keith Judd.
That should be no sweat, right? Judd is a political nobody and a felon, who barely scraped together the $2,500 needed to get his name on the May 10 ballot by using his wages from a job at a Texas hotel.
Tell that to President Barack Obama, who couldn’t stop Judd from winning 41 percent of the state’s primary vote four years ago.
► WVU Coliseum closed indefinitely for asbestos testing
MORGANTOWN, WV –Results of asbestos testing from the WVU Coliseum are expected Saturday.
Contractors working on a $15 million dollar renovation made a suspicious discovery “encapsulated in an inaccessible area above ceilings in entrances to the restrooms ringing the concourse, and did not pose a health hazard to any individuals within the building,” according to WVU Director of Environment Health and Safety, John Principe.
The coliseum was closed to the public in mid March for the summer.
However, some of the WVU Athletics Department staff members were able to continue work in office space.
An undisclosed number of athletic department staff members and construction workers were immediately excused from the 46-year-old building as a precaution.
In 1999, a year-long asbestos abatement process in exposed areas of the coliseum including the arena closed the coliseum.
WVU commencement activities are scheduled for May 14 and 15. Following testing results and assessments, university officials will determine if those ceremonies will have to be relocated.
► Brother, others related to San Bernardino shooters arrested
LOS ANGELES — The brother of one of the San Bernardino shooters was arrested with two other family members Thursday in Southern California in what prosecutors say was a marriage scheme to fraudulently allow one of them to remain in the United States.
Prosecutors say they uncovered the sham marriage during the investigation into the December 2 shootings that killed 14 and wounded 22 others. The gunmen — Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik — died in a shootout with police.
Authorities arrested Farook’s brother and sister-in-law, and the wife of Enrique Marquez Jr., Farook’s longtime friend, in the marriage fraud case. The two women are sisters and Russian immigrants, and came to the U.S. on visas for work or student exchanges.
The sham marriage was between Marquez and Mariya Chernykh, prosecutors said. They wed so she could obtain immigration benefits unavailable to her as a Russian citizen without legal status in the U.S., according to authorities.
The FBI has said Marquez acknowledged getting $200 a month to marry Chernykh, and bank statements back that up, according to the indictment charging the trio.
None of the three is accused of involvement in the attack, though Marquez has been charged with conspiring with Farook to provide material support to terrorists.
Farook’s brother, Syed Raheel Farook, and his wife, Tatiana, participated in the sham marriage by acting as witnesses to the union, and by creating a joint checking account and a back-dated lease to make it look like the pair shared a marital home with the Farooks, prosecutors said.
Tatiana Farook accompanied Chernykh to buy a $50 wedding ring, and Marquez and Chernyk posed for staged photographs to make the marriage appear real, prosecutors said.
The Farooks and Chernykh were expected to be arraigned Thursday in federal court in Riverside. Attorneys representing them did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Raheel Farook served in the Navy from 2003 to 2007 and earned two medals for fighting global terrorism.
In February, FBI agents conducted an hours-long search of his home in the Southern California city of Corona, carting out armloads of thick manila envelopes, a computer tower and an unidentifiable object so heavy it took two men to carry.
The search warrant was sealed, and it wasn’t immediately clear if it was connected to Thursday’s arrests.
The San Bernardino shooting was the deadliest terror strike on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. The couple opened fire at an annual training of Farook’s San Bernardino County co-workers. The 14 people killed and 22 wounded were mainly his colleagues.
The FBI said the Muslim couple were radicalized before they met online and communicated privately about jihad and martyrdom before they married.
Marquez, the only person charged in connection with the attack, is charged with providing the assault rifles used in the massacre, making false statements about when he bought the weapons and conspiring with Syed Rizwan Farook on a pair of previously planned attacks that were never carried out.
Farook’s family has said it had no inkling about the plot.
► Man Pulls $25K Reward in Ohio Slayings Over ‘Developments’
An odd and mostly unexplained development in the murder of eight Ohio family members: A local business leader has yanked his $25,000 reward in the case. In a tweet, restaurant owner Jeff Ruby said that “with recent complex criminal developments in Pike Co case, we are withdrawing our reward and involvement,“ per WKYT. Ruby declined to elaborate to the Cincinnati Enquirer, saying that his advisers asked him not to talk about it. He had made the offer Saturday after consulting with the state attorney general. “It was generous of Mr. Ruby to offer the reward, and it is his choice to withdraw it,” says a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
More than a week after the execution-style slayings, police have not made any arrests or publicly declared a motive, notes the AP. Authorities found commercial-scale marijuana-growing operations at three of the four murder scenes, fueling much speculation about a possible connection to drug cartels. But as the Daily Beast reports, “two of the dead were not shy about making enemies” in their community, either, referring to victims Chris and Frankie Rhoden and their reputations for fighting and violence. Meanwhile, services have begun for the victims. “How can a man face eight funerals?“ Tony Rhoden, who lost two brothers, two nephews, and a niece, asks the Columbus Dispatch.
► Frustrated Man Hosts Birthday Party for Neighborhood Pothole
How long do you have to live with a pothole on your street before you start treating it like a member of the family? Apparently a year will do it. Mashable reports Eddie Prosser of Jackson, Mississippi, got so tired of the city ignoring his complaints about the pothole outside his house that he decided to throw it a birthday party instead. The celebration included balloons and a huge birthday card reading, “Happy birthday, Pothole!“ The pothole had actually been there about 16 months, and Prosser had called the city about it 14 times with no luck, according to WJTV. “It’s] just one small pothole,“ he says. “When they fix the potholes just a block away it wouldn’t have taken another 10 minutes.“
A number of local news stations covered the pothole’s birthday party, and on Sunday a city crew was spotted working on the 5-foot-deep hole, WAPT reports. However, neighbors’ jubilation quickly soured when they realized workers only filled the pothole with dirt and didn’t pave it over. “We were like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’” one resident says. “Maybe they’ll come back and pave it.“ Hopefully before the pothole’s Quinceañera.
► Dad Saves Son on Malfunctioning Roller Coaster in Dramatic Video
A dad’s heartstopping moment was caught on video last week: Delbert Latham was filming himself and his son, Kaysen, riding a roller coaster at the Wonderland amusement park in Zita, Texas, when the seatbelt malfunctioned and the little boy started to slip to the floor of their ride car. Latham grabbed him and held onto him for the rest of the ride, assuring him he was OK, in a video posted on Facebook Friday and shared more than 4,000 times since. Latham says the ride operator wasn’t concerned and continued to allow people on the coaster, just not in that seat, Fox 13 reports.
► Cops Shoot Man in Animal Suit With Bomb Made of Chocolate Bars
A young man in an animal costume and surgical mask who walked into a Baltimore TV station Thursday claiming to have a bomb was shot and wounded by police, who determined that his alleged explosive consisted of aluminum-wrapped chocolate bars duct-taped to a flotation device, the AP reports. The 25-year-old man was in serious but stable condition at a hospital and is expected to survive, said police spokesperson TJ Smith. The progressively bizarre scene unfolded when the man walked into the lobby of Fox affiliate WBFF. The man, wearing what Smith said was a panda suit and what employees described as a hedgehog costume, gave a flash drive to a security guard and told him he wanted the station to broadcast its contents. Smith said police don’t know what was on the drive.
The security guard activated an alarm under his desk, and the station was quickly evacuated. Police say the man barricaded himself in the station. As police, fire, arson, bomb squad, and SWAT teams converged on the scene, a car in the station’s parking lot was engulfed in flames. Smith said it was later determined to belong to the man. When police tried to talk with the man in the lobby, he walked out of the building and into the street, and refused to obey numerous orders by heavily armed officers to show his hands. Police shot him more than once, Smith said, then sent a bomb-detecting robot to him through which they communicated from a distance as he lay on the ground. Police commissioner Kevin Davis called the man’s behavior “bizarre” and “dangerous.“ “This is a very, very unusual event,“ he said.
► Casualties mount from bombardment in Syria’s largest city
BEIRUT — Airstrikes and artillery killed more than 60 people in the past 24 hours in Aleppo, including dozens at a hospital in a rebel-held neighborhood, as Syria’s largest city was turned once again into a major battleground in the civil war, officials said Thursday.
Aid agencies warn that Aleppo is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster with the collapse of a two-month cease-fire and stalled peace talks.
The intensified violence — by far the worst since the partial cease-fire began — coincides with reports of a military buildup outside Aleppo that many fear is a prelude for a government attempt to force a complete siege of the city’s neighborhoods.
Battle-hardened residents were shocked by the bloodshed. Opposition activists accused the government of carpet-bombing rebel-controlled areas, while Syrian state media said more than 1,000 mortar rounds and rockets were fired at government-held districts, killing 22 people.
Video posted online by opposition activists showed rescuers pulling bodies from shattered buildings in the rebel neighborhoods of Sukkari, Kallasa and Bustan al-Qasr.
In one scene, a building’s staircase hung sideways and old men were sobbing.
“The walls, cupboards, everything fell on top of them,“ cried one man. In another, a clearly terrified small girl with pigtails wept silently while held by a man.
A blond girl walked from the rubble behind her mother, questioning why they were bombed. “What have we done?“ she cried.
In the rebel-held Sukkari neighborhood, 27 people died as a well-known field hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee for the Red Cross was hit overnight, along with nearby buildings, according to opposition activists and rescue workers.
U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura appealed to the U.S. and Russia to help revive the peace talks and cease-fire, which he said “hangs by a thread.“
However, the violence only escalated.
Chief opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush blamed the government of President Bashar Assad for the violence, saying it shows “the environment is not conducive to any political action.“
“What is happening is a crime of ethnic and sectarian cleansing by all means,“ Alloush told The Associated Press, adding it was an attempt by Assad’s government to drive residents from Aleppo.
But a citizen journalist said there was little sign of people fleeing the city.
“Where can they go?“ said Bahaa al-Halaby.
A Damascus-based Syrian military official denied the government had hit the hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov also denied bombing any hospitals in Aleppo, saying its aircraft have not flown any missions in the region for several days.
Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group, said fighter jets from the international coalition have not carried out any airstrikes in Aleppo in the past 24 hours.
About 200 civilians have been killed in the past week in Syria, nearly half of them around Aleppo.
With the U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Geneva completely deadlocked, Syrians are watching the escalating violence with dread, fearing that Aleppo is likely to be the focus of the next, more vicious phase of the 5-year-old war.
The hospital that was hit in Sukkari has been one of the main medical centers for Aleppo since the city became divided in 2012.
Among the 27 dead were 14 patients and staff, including three children and six employees, officials said. A dentist and one of the last pediatricians in opposition-held areas of Aleppo were among the victims. The toll was expected to rise.
The 34-bed, multistory hospital, the area’s main pediatric care center, was “hit by direct airstrike,“ according to a statement by Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF.
The hospital had an emergency room, an intensive care unit and an operating room, and its eight doctors and 28 nurses offered services such as obstetric care, outpatient and inpatient treatment, the MSF said. The group has supported the hospital since 2012.
The 250,000 people still in Aleppo will now have to find an alternative facility for care, said Sam Taylor, who is Syria communications coordinator for MSF and is based in Amman, Jordan.
“We’re absolutely appalled,“ he told AP.
Dating to the 1990s, the hospital was renamed for one of the uprising’s early victims, Basel Aslan, after the area came under rebel control. Aslan had been detained by security forces and tortured to death, said civil defense volunteer Ibrahim Alhaj.
The civil defense, also known as the White Helmets, said the hospital and adjacent buildings were struck in four consecutive airstrikes.
Video posted by the White Helmets showed lifeless bodies, including children, being pulled from a building and loaded into ambulances amid screams and wailing. Distraught rescue workers tried to keep away onlookers, apparently fearing more bombs.
Shortly after midday Thursday, new airstrikes in rebel-held areas killed at least 20 people in two neighborhoods, the Syrian Civil Defense and the Observatory said.
Videos by activists showed dust and smoke rising from burning buildings as men and women ran from collapsing houses and children cried, looking for their parents.
Syrian lawmaker Omar Ossi, part of the government delegation at the Geneva talks, blamed the escalation on Turkey and Saudi Arabia as patrons of the rebels.
“The Syrian army will be able to regain the initiative and rein in this Turkish interference,“ he said.
Humanitarian officials said the fighting is putting millions at grave risk.
The U.N. won’t be able to reach embattled Syrians if the intensified violence continues on and near aid convoys, said Jan Egeland, an adviser to the U.N. envoy, adding that in the last three days, one convoy into Homs was hit by a mortar round and another had to stop several times due to air raids.
Egeland decried a “catastrophic deterioration” of the security situation in Aleppo, saying a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Syrians “may be broken.“
The ICRC said stocks of contingency food and medical aid are expected to run out soon and warned that an escalation in fighting means that they cannot be replenished.
The partial cease-fire that began February 27 held for weeks. Formally called a “cessation of hostilities,“ it was never meant to be a total truce because it excluded extremists such as the Islamic State group and its rival al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front.
It frayed further recently as casualties mounted, particularly in Aleppo and other parts of northern Syria. Airstrikes this week hit a training center in rural Aleppo for the Syrian Civil Defense, killing five volunteers.
Since April 19, nearly 200 people have died, including 44 in an airstrike on a market in a rebel-held area in northern Syria’s Idlib province. Dozens of civilians also were killed by rebel shelling in government-held areas. There also has been shelling in Damascus, along with a car bombing — both rare for the capital.
De Mistura, the U.N. envoy, told the Security Council via videoconference that after 60 days, the truce “hangs by a thread.“
“I really fear that the erosion of the cessation is unraveling the fragile consensus around a political solution, carefully built over the last year,“ he said. “Now I see parties reverting to the language of a military solution or military option. We must ensure that they do not see that as a solution or an option.“
The talks foundered last week after the main opposition group, called the High Negotiating Committee, suspended its formal participation to protest alleged cease-fire violations by the government, a drop in humanitarian aid deliveries and no progress in winning the release of detainees.
► Vatican crackdown on tax cheats flagged in oversight report
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s financial watchdog said Thursday it received 544 reports of suspicious financial transactions last year, a three-fold increase over 2014, thanks in part to beefed-up efforts to flag potential tax cheats who are using the Vatican bank to hide money.
In its annual report, the Financial Information Authority said it passed 17 cases on to Vatican prosecutors for follow-up investigation, up from seven a year earlier. In December, European evaluators urged prosecutors to actually bring charges in some of those cases since no indictments have been handed down.
Since 2011, 34 out of 900 suspect transactions have been forwarded to prosecutors for possible follow-up.
The Vatican in 2010 created the financial watchdog to comply with international anti-money-laundering norms and in a bid to shed its image as a financially shady tax haven whose bank has been embroiled in scandal.
In its report, the agency stressed that the spike in suspicious transactions wasn’t the result of increased money-laundering activity, but rather the natural result of the closure of bank accounts at the Vatican bank and new efforts to comply with tax reporting obligations in Italy and the U.S.
The effort at greater financial transparency has extended beyond the initial scope of compliance with anti-money laundering norms to implementing internationally accepted accounting standards across the Holy See’s fragmented departments - part of Pope Francis’ effort to reform the Vatican bureaucracy.
The tortured process has been on sharp display in recent weeks after the Vatican signed, and then suspended, an auditing contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Vatican said the suspension wasn’t due to any reluctance to submit to “adequate” auditing measures, but rather because of issues about the “meaning and scope” of the PwC contract and how it would be implemented.
The suspension, though, laid bare an increasingly public battle between the two centers of power in the Vatican: the secretariat of state and the new secretariat for the economy, headed by Australian Cardinal George Pell.
Pell had enlisted PwC to do the audit, and co-signed the contract, even though the Vatican has its own auditor general. His office issued a statement saying he was “a bit surprised” that the secretariat of state suspended the contract but was confident the PwC work would soon resume.
It was the latest of several Pell initiatives to try to assert control over the Vatican’s finances that have been quashed by the secretariat of state or the pope himself.
► North Korea Gives U.S. ‘Spy’ 10 Years Hard Labor
North Korea on Friday sentenced a US citizen of Korean heritage to 10 years in prison after convicting him of espionage and subversion, the second American it has put behind bars this year. Kim Dong Chul had been detained in the North on suspicion of engaging in spying and stealing state secrets. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor after a brief trial in Pyongyang. North Korea’s Supreme Court found Kim guilty of crimes and espionage and subversion of under Articles 60 and 64 of the North’s criminal code, the AP reports.
When he was paraded before the media in Pyongyang last month, Kim said he had collaborated with and spied for South Korean intelligence authorities in a plot to bring down the North’s leadership and had tried to spread religion among North Koreans before his arrest in the city of Rason last October. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, the country’s main spy agency, has said Kim’s case wasn’t related to the organization in any way. Kim’s sentencing comes on the heels of a 15-year sentence handed down on Otto Warmbier, an American university student who the North says was engaged in anti-state activities while visiting the country as a tourist earlier this year.
► Every Belgium Resident to Get Iodine Ration
Last month’s terrorist attacks in Brussels heightened already existing fears of ISIS building and setting off a dirty bomb in Belgium, and now the government is taking no chances. Health Minister Maggie De Block announced Thursday that iodine pills—which counteract radiation buildup in the thyroid gland, the part of the body most sensitive to Iodine-131—will be rationed out to the country’s entire population of 11 million people, the Telegraph reports. This expands on Belgium’s previous program, which only covered allotments for those who lived within 14 miles of two major nuclear plants. The augmented rations were proposed after experts recommended expanding affected areas to those within 62 miles of the plants—basically the entire nation (NBC News notes Belgium is about Maryland’s size); the new rules have yet to be finalized.
Rations will be sent to pharmacies, with pregnant women, breastfeeding moms, and kids getting first dibs. “Given the population density and the risk of a nuclear disaster, this was absolutely necessary,“ a Belgian politician told local paper La Libre, per RT.com. There are a couple of reasons for concern being cited, including a 10-hour surveillance video that shows the home of a senior Belgian nuclear official that was found in the possession of a man arrested after the Paris terror attacks. And there’s also the dilapidated state of the four-decade-old Doel and Tihange nuclear plants, with reports of metal degradation and fires, but De Block says the new pill mandate has nothing to do with facility safety concerns. RT.com calls Iodine-131 “one of the most harmful radioactive elements that can be released,“ and notes it was linked to 5,000 thyroid-cancer deaths in the wake of Chernobyl.
Honors Doled Out by WVWC During Academic and Leadership Banquet
Honors Doled Out at Annual Academic and Leadership Awards Banquet
Students, faculty, and staff members were honored on Saturday, April 23 during West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Academic and Leadership Awards Banquet, held in the French A. See Dining Center on the Buckhannon campus.
Listed below are the awards and their recipients.
Student Senate Award – Faculty:Jeanne Sullivan, associate professor of biology
Student Senate Award – Staff:Jessica Vincent, leadership & service program assistant
Greek Woman of the Year –Keana Bertocci (Alpha Xi Delta; Perryopolis, PA)
Greek Man of the Year –Joshua Loptiz (Theta Xi; Leonardtown, MD)
International Student Ambassador–Julia Uchoa (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award –Erin Hudnall (Ansted, WV)
The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award –Shawna L. Clayton (Clarksburg, WV)
2015 Newman Civic Fellows Award –Mark Leadingham III (Sharpsburg, MD)
John Wesley Do All the Good You Can Award – Amadu Bah (Laurel, MD) and Ashley Cooper (Rupert, WV)
Wesleyan Values Award – Elaine Ashman (Newton, WV) and Keana Bertocci (Perryopolis, PA)
Outstanding Peer Leader Award – Kayla Hinkley (Hurricane, WV)
Outstanding Community Outreach Awards – Angelica Harvey (Buckhannon, WV)
Outstanding Senior Award –Haley Chambers (Jumping Branch, WV)
Outstanding Junior Award –Reno Swiger (Shinnston, WV)
OutstandingSophomore Award –Kelsey Acree (Mt. Nebo, WV)
Outstanding Freshman Award –De’andre Brown (Baltimore, MD)
Outstanding Senior – Rebecca Davis (Mechanicsburg, PA), Rebekah Honce (Bridgeport, WV), and Langely Salyers (Moorefield, WV)
Outstanding Research Student –Rebekah Honce (Bridgeport, WV)
Outstanding Chemical Hygiene Officer Assistant –Angelica Harvey (Buckhannon, WV))
Overall Most Outstanding Senior –James Young (Hurricane, WV)
Excellence in Applied Learning –Kelsie Andrews (North East, MD)
Excellence in Writing –Timothy Nelson (Charleston, WV) and Mattison Swartz (Lewisburg, WV)
Excellence in Speaking –Joshua Lopitz (Leonardtown, MD)
Criminal Justice Award –Ryan
Rado (St. Augustine, FL)
Academic Achievement Freshman Award – Mary Ambuul (Martinsburg, WV)
Academic Achievement Sophomore Award – Leah Casarano (Aurthurdale, WV) and Andrew Kinkead (Stuarts Draft, VA)
Academic Achievement Junior Award – Kathalyn Maxson (Ravenswood, WV) and Logan Tucker (Ravenswood, WV)
Academic Achievement Senior Award – Holden Akers-Toler (Beckley, WV) and Emily Jenkins (Albright, WV)
Dr.Ruth Mansberger Shearer Education Award –Samantha Swann (Owings, MD)
The Dorie McHugh O’Brien ’64 Education Award – Chad Gradisek (Mount Pleasant, PA)
Outstanding Senior English Major –Joseph Keener (Buckhannon, WV)
Outstanding English as a Second Language Student –Shin Fujikawa (Japan) and Kohtaroh Kusunoki (Japan)
Outstanding Senior in Athletic Training –Devon Brosh (Petersburg, WV)
Freshman with Highest GPA for Athletic Training –Hannah Pulley (Lusby, MD)
Delta Psi Kappa/David E. Reemsnyder Award –Lauren Graham (Bessemer City, NC)
Sam Ross Athletic Scholars –Tanner McGrew (Buckhannon, WV) and Rebekah Honce (Bridgeport, WV)
Outstanding Senior History Majors –Sarah Campbell (Saint Marys, WV) and Stephanie Frazer (Alum Creek, WV)
Outstanding Junior History Majors –Tori Badaway (Canada) and Richard Baisden (Clarksburg, MD)
Outstanding Senior International Studies Major –Rebecca Davis (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Pamela Thorn Humanities Award –Morgan Carter (Fredericksburg, VA)
Hallam Awards –Zachary C. Abbot (Carmel, IN), Stacie M. Baumann (Gahanna, OH) Jacob W. Coleman (Belington, WV), Andrew R. Kinkead (Stuarts Draft, VA), Mark P. Leadingham (Sharpsburg, MD), Jericho A. Norris (Vienna, WV), Daniel R. Plaugher (Salem, WV), and Trevor T. Williams (Buckhannon, WV)
Outstanding Senior Music Awards –Holden Akers-Toler (Beckley, WV) and Julia Uchoa (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Academic and Leadership Awards –Leah Bailey (Baden, PA), Chloe Bland (Dunmore, WV), Megann Boone (Frametown, WV), Devon Brosh (Petersburg, WV), Robert Brosh (Charles Town, WV), Morgan Carter (Fredericksburg, VA), Shawna Clayton (Clarksburg, WV), Alberta Crawford (Wellsburg, WV), Lauren Cronise (Hagerstown, MD), Rebecca Davis (Mechanicsburg, PA), Nicole Friedemann (Canby, OR), Tracey Gregory (Craigsville, WV), Rebekah Honce (Bridgeport, WV), Mikaela Hutchinson (Charleston, WV), Emily Jenkins (Albright, WV), Jeremy Lambson (Buckhannon, WV), Tanner McGrew (Buckhannon, WV), Gregory Strader (Moon Township, PA), Samantha Sunshine (Blacksburg, VA).
Senior Who’s Who Among Students in America –Elaine Ashman (Newton, WV), Victoria Crise (Natrona Heights, PA), Carson Cunningham (Buckhannon, WV), Paula Gyamfi (Beltsville, MD), Bethany Jordan (Scott Depot, WV), Danielle Lancaster (Millstone, WV), Danielle Nehilla (South Park, PA), John Prentice (Elkins, WV), Kirsten Reneau (Grafton, WV), Corey Rhodes (Seneca Rocks, WV), Catherine Riggleman (Beverly, WV), Nathan Ropelewski (Richmond, VA), Telena Sanson (Summersville, WV), Scott Stoeckle (Buckhannon, WV), Philip Summers (Charleston, WV), and Jordan Tate (Charleston, WV)
Junior Who’s Who Among Students in America –Jackson Carey (Follansbee, WV), Katherine Casey (Canton, OH), Audrey Chefan-Kemseu (France), Kimberly Culver (Culpeper, VA), Jordan Danko (Ravenswood, WV), Jessica Engels (Kingwood, WV), Kortney Frame (Troy, WV), Taylor Germain (Oakland, MD), Thomas Haines (Green Spring, WV), Wilson Harvey (Weston, WV), Madison Ovies (Franklin, TN), Sarah Petitto (West Milford, WV), Kaitlyn Romain (Bridgeport, WV), Aurora Snyder (Royersford, PA), Destinee Tunstall (Indian Head, MD), and Mason Winkie (Bridgeport, WV)
GSC Athletics Takes Part in Little Kanawha River Trail Cleanup
Glenville, WV – This past Saturday, April 23rd several Glenville State student-athletes took time out of their day to help participate in the Little Kanawha River Trail cleanup which took part in downtown Glenville on Brooklyn Drive along the river bank.
“It was great working with the community to help clean up the City of Glenville especially so close to Earth Day. It’s important to take care of our environment not just for us but also for the future,” said GSC Lady Pioneer Brittany Jackson.
The newly-formed Little Kanawha River Trail also had help from several community volunteers as well other groups and organizations at Glenville State College. Members of the GSC Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild helped clean up the river near Sand Fork, GSC Forestry students Michael Pracht and Zach White tested the water and provided a chemical baseline, and GSC Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jeremy Keene floated the river to perform an analysis. Additionally, the GSC Kayak Club allowed helpers the use of their kayaks and canoes.
“It is a great opportunity to not only help clean up the city of Glenville but to also help clean up the state of West Virginia; two things that are really important to the Athletic Department and all of our teams. It also helps our athletes enjoy the great outdoors and teaches them about giving back to their communities,” stated GSC Athletic Director Marcal Lazenby.
Overall, 560 pounds of waste were collected on Saturday including 23 bags of trash, 13 tires, a rusty sewing machine, a heavy tent, and a hospital bed complete with motors.
The Little Kanawha River Trail has been developed for non-motorized boaters allowing users to enjoy the natural, historic, cultural, and scenic resources of the Little Kanawha River watershed. Using multiple entry sites along the river, boaters can view visual guides to learn about the area and access local businesses.
CHARLESTON, WV – To improve public health, count the ACEs – the Adverse Childhood Experiences. That’s the message coming to a social workers’ conference in Charleston.
Virginia social worker Allison Jackson comes backed with a lot of new research and a compelling personal story.
She says a list of 10 kinds of childhood trauma, such as violence, abuse or addiction in the home, can predict health problems.
Jackson says of the 10, she survived eight. No surprise, she was institutionalized repeatedly. And she says she might not have made it, but for a mental health worker who befriended her and visited her once after a serious suicide attempt.
“I couldn’t talk because I had really hurt myself,“ says Jackson. “And he said, ‘Please don’t give up Allison, before you know what you can become. Because I’m going to hold hope right here until you are strong enough to grab it.‘“
Jackson says she pays that kindness forward in part by talking about how much damage childhood trauma can do.
For more than 30 years, the National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) West Virginia chapter has hosted a spring conference. It’s now the largest event of its kind in the country.
Jackson says the great news she’s bringing to the conference is that a high ACEs score is not a death sentence, although, untreated, it is a serious threat to public heath.
“The CDC has linked over 70 physical and mental health conditions to Adverse Childhood Experiences,“ she says. “At a score of a six instead of a zero, you’re more likely to die 20 years younger than your counterpart.“
Jackson says with an ACEs score of four, a person is 15 times more likely to attempt suicide, five times more likely to become an alcoholic, 11 times more likely to use intravenous drugs, and much more likely to have mental health issues. But she stresses that we know how to treat childhood trauma.
“Most of us know that texting while driving is a major public health issue,“ says Jackson. “There is no commercial about Adverse Childhood Experiences. We’re not talking about it, we don’t hear about it – and yet, it significantly affects our health.“
She’ll be speaking and hosting workshops at the Charleston Civic Center over the next three days.
United Health Foundation Donates $50,000 to Teen Challenge
Bridgeport, WV –What began as teenage experimentation smoking cigarettes eventually led Mike Stewart into a downward spiral with a life out of control, fueled by drugs and alcohol. He flunked out of college, was unemployed, looking at becoming homeless. He’d lost his friends; his family didn’t know how to help.
Fast forward 16 years . . . Mike Stewart now directs Northern Appalachian Teen Challenge and is working on bringing a new facility to the Clarksburg area. He’s been there, done that —and can relate better than anyone who’s in what used to be his shoes.
After entering and even completing many programs, his turnaround began when he discovered Teen Challenge, which for more than 50 years has offered Christ-centered, biblically based ministries to help people with life-controlling problems.
(L-R) Mike Tillman, CEO of United Hospital Center; Ted Lopez, board member of United Health Foundation;
Mike Stewart, director of Northern Appalachian Teen Challenge and
Tom Gorrell, chairman and board member of United Health Foundation.
The work — and success — of Teen Challenge has so impressed United Health Foundation that it has donated $50,000 to the local Teen Challenge. As Bridgeport physician Jonathan Stanley, D.O., infectious diseases, explained, West Virginia faces a statewide epidemic in illicit drug abuse, making the work of Teen Challenge especially relevant.
UHC takes care of young addicted adults with life threatening illnesses due to their habit. Now that Teen Challenge is in the area it will offer a discharge plan after hospitalization, with a chance to cure the underlying opioid addiction. These patients often need long term antibiotics and cannot be discharged.
“Specifically, the increase of intravenous drug abuse has led to so many new cases of both Hepatitis B and C that West Virginia nearly leads the nation in new diagnoses. This epidemic has also led to increases in life-threatening infections resulting in prolonged hospitalizations and even death. Northern Appalachian Teen Challenge will give people healthy avenues to get the help they need,” Dr. Stanley said.
Through Teen Challenge, Stewart learned he couldn’t do things on his own. “That first week I lay awake in my bunk and thought about my life,” Stewart said of joining the faith-based program. “I remember how it felt like I was being scrubbed from the inside out.” Stewart went through the year-long program, which centered on following Jesus Christ and changing your life, and he hasn’t touched drugs or alcohol since.
The Bridgeport native graduated from the program, went to college working toward a degree in business marketing when he felt a calling to go into the ministry. He joined Northern Appalachian Teen Challenge in 2009 as executive director and is looking to open the Clarksburg center hopefully this year debt-free, serving up to 22 boys ages 12 to 17.
Now he finds joy helping others who are going through the same thing he did. “I’m an open book. I share where I was and where my life has taken me today and what’s caused that change,” said Stewart, who speaks at schools and churches.
For more information on Northern Appalachian Teen Challenge, call 304.933.3209 or go to wvteenchallenge.com.