G-ICYMI™: GSC to Refinance Bonds for Lower Rate

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Glenville State to refinance bonds for lower rate

The Free Press WV

The Higher Education Policy Commission’s Friday meeting should have been the time to review financial information of the four-year colleges in the state, but that plan was stalled because of how long it took for lawmakers to agree on the state’s budget for next year.

Instead, the commission decided to push back the lion’s share of its agenda to a meeting in July, opting only to take care of time-sensitive, essential agenda items that need attention before the end of this fiscal year.

Over a conference call, the commission approved a resolution allowing Glenville State College to refinance two of its bonds, effectively saving the college money and freeing it from the covenants of the bonds.

“Much like you might refinance your home mortgage to get a lower interest rate, Glenville will be refinancing some of its debt at a lower interest rate, which will save $200,000 in the first year, ease yearly spending constraints and give the institution more time to pay off the bond,” said Jessica Tice, HEPC spokeswoman. “This will help the college through these challenging budget times and result in greater financial sustainability.”

One bond was originally used to fund the construction of a student housing apartment complex called Pioneer Village. Moody’s Investor Services downgraded this bond to a B1 rating with a negative outlook in February, citing “substantial deterioration in operating performance and liquidity, with very limited remaining cash on hand.”

By refinancing this bond, Glenville State will avoid further ratings from Moody’s or any other rating agency, potentially saving it from future negative ratings, according to the resolution.

The second bond was used to fund the construction of another 484-bed residence hall called Goodwin Hall.

Also Friday, the commission elected its new officers. Dr. Bruce Berry and Kathy Eddy will continue on as the commission’s chairman and secretary respectively, and Michael J. Farrell will serve as vice chairman.

The rest of the commission’s work will take place at a future meeting to allow colleges a chance to finish approving their budgets for next year.

Colleges under the watch of HEPC that want to increase their tuition by more than 5 percent have to receive approval from the commission. HEPC would normally hear these requests in June.

HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill said colleges rely on a number of different revenue sources, including funds from tuition, grants, private donations and state appropriations. Because the state has had an official budget for only about a week, colleges didn’t have a full picture of what their budget would be.

West Virginia University’s Board of Governors met and approved the school’s budget on June 17, the same day Gov. Tomblin signed the state’s budget deal. Other schools have had to be fluid with their plans.

“Because we didn’t have a state budget when they met last at the end of April, the Board [of Governors] approved two budget- and tuition-related resolutions as contingencies,” said Ginny Painter, Marshall University spokeswoman.

The commission is still gathering information about whether any college will request tuition increases more than 5 percent, according to Hill, but none have so far.

The commission has yet to set a date for its next meeting.

~~  Jake Jarvis - Gazette-Mail ~~


The Free Press WV

BUCKHANNON, WV – St. Joseph’s Hospital is pleased to welcome Peter Power, MD to the staff of The Physiciansof St. Joseph’s.  Dr. Power practices Obstetrics and Gynecology and is now accepting appointments for the beginning of July.

“We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Power to our physicians’group here at St. Joseph’s Hospital,” said Skip Gjolberg, Administrator.  “He will be joining our team at the Center for Women’s Health,  providing the best in healthcare to our community so there is no need to travel elsewhere.” 

Dr. Power earned his Doctor of Medicine from the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He performed his residency at the Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia.  He has also performed research in Obstetrics and Gynecology while at the Charleston Area Medical Center.

Dr. Power’s office will be located on the second floor of St. Joseph’s Medical Office Building at 100 West Main Street.  He will be providing services in obstetrics, gynecology & infertility.  Appointments with Dr. Power can be scheduled by calling 304.473.2300.

Turning a Disaster Into a Cookout – One Flood Response

CHARLESTON, WV - The floods have been tragic and disastrous, but they also gave folks a chance to show the instinct for neighborliness West Virginians are known for. When the bridge into the Crossings Mall in Elkview collapsed, it took out the only road into the shopping plaza. Hundreds of people were trapped. But at least Kroger employees like Cody Deahl made sure they had something to eat. Deahl said they cranked up a couple of the store’s propane grills and cooked steak, chicken and other foods. He said it turned into a nice cook-out.

“I guess it was,“ he said. “I mean, it’s like everybody wants to go to the beach, and we were trapped on our own little island for a little while. So, why not?“

After a couple of days all but cut off, emergency workers built a temporary access road into the back of the plaza.

The Free Press WV
When a culvert collapsed, cutting off the Crossings Mall in Elkview,
some of the Kroger workers there fired up the grills to feed the hundreds of folks trapped at the shopping plaza.

Many trapped at the mall were sleeping in their cars and everyone was doing without running water. But Kroger co-manager Jamie Barker said everyone tried to stay positive. After the foot-traffic access road was opened, they agreed to help a woman who was passing out cleaning supplies who, against the rules, drove her vehicle into the shopping plaza.

“She actually snuck by the cops while they were talking to the National Guard,“ she said. “Drove her van up here. They were buying some stuff out of their own pocket. She asked us if there was any way that we could donate. So we said ‘get a buggy, load it up, and we’ll donate whatever you can fit in this buggy.‘“

Some of the Kroger employees doing the cooking were also trapped. Deahl said he was dying to take a shower. But he still seemed upbeat about the situation. Deahl said the store manager told them to go find all the meat that was nearly out of date and serve all of that.

“Hundred and twenty pieces of chicken, about a hundred some pieces of steak,“ he added. “Why throw it away when we could just give it to people who need it?“

Deahl said helping out in an emergency is not that unusual. “We’re West Virginians,“ he said. “That’s just what we do.“

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Recovery underway in West Virginia town ‘built to carry on’

When the torrential rains stopped in the tiny West Virginia town of Rainelle, the volunteers started showing up.

By Monday, a small food line at a shopping plaza had ballooned from a couple of hundred hot dogs and hamburgers to a feast for flood victims — everything from bananas to cupcakes to nachos — and more hot dogs. Behind the food line, a large room was filled halfway to the ceiling with bags of donated clothing.

As volunteers sorted the items, the extent of last Thursday’s deluge came into clearer focus: Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and at least 23 people were killed when up to 9 inches of rain fell in a short span, causing perhaps the worst flooding the state has seen in three decades. More than 400 people were living in shelters across the state.

“We haven’t stopped feeding people,“ volunteer Kelsi Shawver said inside the Park Center shopping plaza. “I don’t even know that I’d call it volunteering. I’m just here to help.“

Some of the worst destruction was in Rainelle, a town of about 1,500 people surrounded by hills, the Meadow River and several tributaries. Founded by the Rainelle brothers, Thomas and John, and once home to the largest hardwood lumber mill in the world, the town’s motto is “A town built to carry on ... building great things since 1906,“ according to its website .

The recovery and rebuilding has already begun. Along U.S. Route 60, the piles along the road came in two forms — ruined belongings and donated household supplies that needed to be picked up. At the shopping plaza, state troopers assisted with traffic flow and helped carry items to a supply drop-off and distribution center while helicopters buzzed overhead.

The Rainelle United Methodist Church, thought to be the largest structure in the world built entirely of American Chestnut lumber, had also turned into a donation center. The church basement flooded but the main level, which sits higher off the ground, was unscathed.

Cindy Chamberlain, who oversees the shopping center distribution center, said she worked with the American Red Cross during the massive response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“It parallels Katrina. It is that bad,“ she said.

Chamberlain said she has seen an “amazing outpouring of love” from more than a dozen states, along with residents from throughout West Virginia. Because it’s early in the response, she said she needs fewer donations of clothing and more items such as bottled water, cleaning supplies and money.

As food was served, the skies opened up and dropped more rain on the already-soaked town. Fortunately, most of the floodwaters had receded and there weren’t any major problems after the brief downpour.

“That was the first thing that went through my head,“ Valerie Oney said. “I was like, ‘Oh my, is this going to happen again? Are we sacrificing everything for nothing?“

Another downpour hit in the afternoon, but didn’t stop workers at the church from handing out supplies.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said during a press conference in Clendenin, about 70 miles northwest of Rainelle, that thousands of homes were lost and there are “thousands of others that will need some kind of rehab done to them to fix them up. Same thing with businesses.“

Clendenin Mayor Gary Bledsoe said 99 percent of the town’s businesses were gone and 60 percent of the town’s homes were destroyed. The town has a population of about 1,200 people. Tomblin didn’t have any specific statewide numbers on the destruction.

The governor defended the state’s preparation and response, but conceded they were caught off guard by an uncertain forecast and just how much rain fell in such a short amount of time.

“We didn’t anticipate, I don’t think, being as bad as it was with as heavy amounts as we had,“ the governor said. “I think that it just came up so fast and no one was expecting high water to this proportion.“

Two men who were presumed dead when a camper was swept away in rushing waters were accounted for and the state revised its death toll Monday to 23. That number includes 20 bodies found and three people who are missing and presumed dead.

The drew comparisons to November 1985, floods that remain the state’s most expensive natural disaster with more than $570 million in damage and 47 dead.

Some residents formed armed patrols to protect what was left of their homes and possessions after reports of looting.

Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler warned potential looters in a Facebook post that anyone caught would be arrested and jailed, according to WCHS-TV.

“If the residents of this area catch you first, you may not make it to jail,“ he said.

►   Flooding in clay county

When Clay County High School Football Coach Jason Nichols opened the doors to the football locker room Saturday his heart sank.

“It was a total disaster. It was a 100 percent loss of our equipment, our ability to watch game film, our helmets, shoulder pads, and our weight equipment,” said Nichols. “Totes were shoved up into the ceiling. It was a site I never want to see again.”

Amid the mud and muck on the locker room floor a stranded fish scurried for cover. Folks tossed the fish back into the nearby swollen Elk River and began the difficult task of starting over.

Monday in front of the school a long line of individuals were doing the very same thing. The school is the distribution point for bleach, mops, food, water, and other essential items. The materials were largely trucked in from other West Virginia communities, donated by fellow West Virginians.

“This is the second truckload we’ve brought down,” said Stanley Kwiatkowski of the Bridgeport Fire Department. “This came from the city of Bridgeport residents. We brought a small dumptruck full of water and this trailer with assorted items.”

Mud caked vehicles rolled through the high school parking lot as volunteers loaded them up.

“Clay County High School is the center of the community and we are the hub of activity,” said Principal Melinda Isaacs. “We’ve been part of things like this in the past, but this is the biggest operation we’ve ever had.”

Down river in the community of Hartland Michael Cash sat on the front porch of a borrowed fishing cabin and stared 100 yards downstream at the ruins of his own place. He and his family narrowly escaped Thursday night’s flood.

“A buddy of mine came down and flashed his lights and told us to get out of there. By the time we did, it was coming up over the banks,” said Cash. “We went to the top of the road over next to her aunt’s house and we stayed there in our vehicle for three days.”

Cash’s home sits on a foundation at least five feet from the ground and the water was another five feet inside his home. He lost everything. Hartland road was washed out and trees down leaving Cash and his neighbors trapped. Phone, water, and electrical service was lost. Along the road an Appalachian Power substation was submerged. Along many Clay County roads power lines still lay on the ground five days after the flood.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “We lost our home, lost four wheelers, lost our lawnmowers. Basically we lost everything we had other than a few clothes we were able to scrounge up that were high enough not to get wet.”

Cash’s neighbors, Lisa and Kenneth Gower, were in worse shape. They went from living in a car for three days to living in a tent. Before they could get it completely up and liveable, another deluge of rain Monday afternoon soaked what provisions they had saved.

“This is our tent city here for the time being. We’re just waiting for FEMA to show up and see what we can get from them,” Lisa said fighting back tears. “The house is unliveable. We’ll probably just have to doze it down.”

The Gower’s home had water nearly to the ceiling and everything was lost.

“We’re fine on food, water, money, it’s just we have no place to live,” Kenneth explained. “I guess there are steps you have to go through, step 1, step 2, step 3, but we don’t have the foggiest idea where to start.”

The Gowers and their neighbors expressed frustration about Clay County not being included in the federal disaster declaration.

“We’re hearing all kinds of stories, but we’re not hearing anything from officials. We’re in the dark,” Gower said. “Everybody down through here, is just gone. Wiped out.”

“People are doing what we’re doing,” Lisa added. “Making the best of it. Waking up and thanking God you’re still alive.”

►   Two Presumed Dead in Flood Found Alive, Death Toll Drops to 23

The number of deaths resulting from last week’s severe floods have been revised by the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office.

According the to the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, two people who were presumed dead after their camper was washed away by flood waters were found alive, bringing the death toll to 23.

►   West Virginia Lottery $1B mark comes later than usual

CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Lottery has taken longer this year to reach $1 billion in revenues than it has in more than a decade.

The mark was reached in mid-May. Acting Lottery director John Myers said the month was finished with year-to-date gross revenues of $1.049 billion, down nearly $21 million from the same point in 2015, with one month left in the budget year.

It’s the longest it’s taken to get to $1 billion since 2003. The earliest the Lottery has hit $1 billion was in February 2007. That year, the Lottery set a revenue record of $1.56 billion.

The numbers of competing casinos in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland have multiplied since that time, and the West Virginia Lottery has taken longer to reach $1 billion in revenue.

►   Trump heading to West Virginia for fundraiser with coal exec

WHEELING, WV — Donald Trump is heading to Wheeling for an invitation-only fundraiser with coal magnate Robert Murray.

Murray Energy spokesman Gary Broadbent says Murray is hosting a fundraiser Tuesday for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. It will take place at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

Broadbent says Murray is organizing the event personally, so the company has no further comment.

West Virginia is considered one of the most favorable states for Trump. He garnered 77 percent of the vote during the state’s May 10 primary election.

During a rally in Charleston last month, Trump promised to bring back jobs in the state’s hard-hit coal industry.

Economic forecasts say the industry won’t bounce back, with or without pending federal regulations that target carbon pollution from burning coal for energy.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


They’re celebrating the decision to strike down major abortion restrictions, but also facing a daunting reality: New clinics won’t be replacing the dozens that have closed any time soon.


But Prime Minister David Cameron insists that Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union won’t send the economy into a tailspin even as the country was stripped of its top credit rating, and stock markets and the pound plummeted.


In Britain, accounts compiled by community groups suggest a sudden spike in incidents since Thursday’s Brexit vote.


Hillary Clinton campaigns in battleground Ohio with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a symbol of how the Democratic Party is coming together ahead of the presidential election.


Iceland, by the far the smallest country to qualify for a European Championship, is celebrating its stunning defeat of England.


Tens of thousands of Iraqis who survived a harrowing flight from Fallujah now find themselves in sprawling desert camps with little food, water or shelter.


It would be the largest auto scandal settlement in U.S. history and a huge step toward addressing the legal fallout from its admission that its vehicles were designed to fool emissions tests.


Authorities have opened an accident investigation inquiry into the May crash that killed 66 people.


After centuries of weathering overfishing, foreign competition and increasing regulation, climate change is the one that’s doing Northeastern fishermen in.


Thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed and at least 23 people died in the worst flooding the state has seen in three decades.

Sharia Law: Five Myth About It

The Free Press WV

Clearly, Americans fear sharia, Islam’s legal framework. At least nine states have passed “foreign law” statutes banning sharia in American courts — even though no U.S. court has ever ruled based on sharia. Although the Constitution expressly forbids a religious test for would-be leaders of the nation, then-presidential candidate Ben Carson said last year that he’d oppose any Muslim White House aspirant who was “not willing to reject sharia.” In this election year, Donald Trump calls for a ban on all Muslim immigration, and pundits argue that sharia prompted the killing of innocent dancers at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Falsehoods about Islam abound, and many of them center on what sharia is and what it is not. Here are five myths.

Myth No. 1

Sharia is “Islamic law.”

After the March terrorist attack in Brussels, Trump said that European Muslims “want to go by sharia law.” In May, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) claimed that Muslims in Michigan “have tried to implement their version of sharia law in the United States.” Talk-show host Mark Levin says, “We already have creeping sharia law in this country.” Listening to these voices, you might think the West is on the verge of switching to a whole new legal system.

But sharia isn’t even “law” in the sense that we in the West understand it. And most devout Muslims who embrace sharia conceptually don’t think of it as a substitute for civil law. Sharia is not a book of statutes or judicial precedent imposed by a government, and it’s not a set of regulations adjudicated in court. Rather, it is a body of Koran-based guidance that points Muslims toward living an Islamic life. It doesn’t come from the state, and it doesn’t even come in one book or a single collection of rules. Sharia is divine and philosophical. The human interpretation of sharia is called “fiqh,” or Islamic rules of right action, created by individual scholars based on the Koran and hadith (stories of the prophet Muhammad’s life). Fiqh literally means “understanding” — and its many different schools of thought illustrate that scholars knew they didn’t speak for God.

Fiqh distinguishes between the spiritual value of an action (how God sees it) and the worldly value of that action (how it affects others). Fiqh rules might obligate a devout Muslim to pray, but it’s not the job of a Muslim ruler to enforce that obligation. Fiqh is not designed to help governments police morality in the way, say, Saudi Arabia does today. According to classical fiqh scholarship, a Muslim ruler’s task was to put forth another type of law, called siyasa, based on what best serves the public good. The most vivid example of this was the recognition of incestuous (mother-son, brother-sister) marriages practiced by some non-Muslim minorities living under Muslim rule, dating back at least to the 14th century, despite the abhorrence, generally, of such marriages to Islam. In other words, sharia doesn’t hold that everything objectionable to Islam should be outlawed.

Myth No. 2

In Muslim countries, sharia is the law of the land.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in London demanded that British officials respect his country’s legal system “based on sharia law.” An analysis of deepening religiosity in Indonesia by the Gatestone Institute, a foreign affairs think tank, said the country was “leaning more and more towards . . . Sharia laws.”

While it’s true that sharia influences the legal codes in most Muslim-majority countries, those codes have been shaped by a lot of things, including, most powerfully, European colonialism. France, England and others imposed nation-state models on nearly every Muslim-majority land, inadvertently joining the crown and the faith. In pre-modern Muslim lands, fiqh authority was separate from the governing authority, or siyasa. Colonialism centralized law with the state, a system that carried over when these countries regained independence.

When Muslim political movements, such as Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have looked to codify sharia in their countries, they have done so without any attention to the classical separation of fiqh and siyasa, instead continuing the legal centralization of the European nation-state. That’s why these movements look to legislate sharia — they want centralized laws for everything. But by using state power to force particular religious doctrines upon the public, they would essentially create Muslim theocracies, contrary to what existed for most of Muslim history.

Myth No. 3

Sharia is anti-woman.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali American, former member of the Dutch parliament and one of the most visible critics of Islam, says that Islamic law “is inherently hostile to women” because of its marriage laws, among other reasons. Many Westerners see Muslim women’s headcover as a kind of oppression. This year, for instance, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls endorsed his country’s effort to ban the hijab on university campuses, calling it a symbol of the “enslavement of women.” There is a verse in the Koran that holds that men are the “protectors” of women, but many contemporary scholars dispute the notion that this suggests women must obey men or that women are inferior.

While it’s true that many majority-Muslim societies have laws that treat women unfairly, many of these laws, like Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers, have no basis in fiqh. In instances where there is a fiqh origin for modern legislation, that legislation often cherry-picks certain rules, including more woman-affirming interpretations. And on a range of issues, Islam can fairly be described as feminist. Fiqh scholars, for instance, have concluded that women have the right to orgasm during sex and to fight in combat. (Women fought alongside the prophet Muhammad himself.) Fiqh can also be interpreted as pro-choice, with certain scholars positing that although abortion is forbidden, first-trimester abortions are not punishable.

Fiqh doctrine says a woman’s property, held exclusively in her name, cannot be appropriated by her husband, brother or father. (For centuries, this stood in stark contrast with the property rights of women in Europe.) Muslim women in America are sometimes shocked to find that, even though they were careful to list their assets as separate, those can be considered joint assets after marriage.

To be sure, there are patriarchal rules in fiqh, and many of these are legislated in modern Muslim-majority countries. For example, women in Iran can’t run for president or attend men’s soccer matches. But these rules are human interpretations, not sharia.

Myth No. 4

Islam demands brutal punishments.

The faith’s reputation for savagely punishing lawbreakers — with stoning, flogging, etc. — is so prevalent that even Disney’s 1992 film “Aladdin” made light of cutting off thieves’ hands. It doesn’t help that the Islamic State routinely kills innocents for all sorts of perceived transgressions, despite the Koran’s prohibition of wanton violence: It forbids attacks on civilians, property, houses of worship and even animals.

In the same way that the Ku Klux Klan’s tactics are a poor representation of Christian practice (despite its claims to be a Christian organization), the Islamic State is the worst place to look to understand what sharia says about punishment and the treatment of innocents and prisoners. It’s true that sharia permits harsh corporal punishment, including amputation of limbs, but fiqh restricts its application. Theft, for example, doesn’t include anything stolen out of hunger or items of low value. (That piece of fruit Jasmine “stole” in “Aladdin” certainly wouldn’t qualify.) Adultery? Yes, corporal punishment for extramarital sex is Koranic in origin, but it comes with an extremely high evidentiary burden of proof: four eye-witnesses. It’s a sin but not one that is the business of the state to punish.

Myth No. 5

Sharia is about conquest.

In 2010, as he was preparing for his presidential campaign, former House speaker Newt Gingrich gave a speech stating: “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. . . . They’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of sharia.” His remarks reflect a widely held view that Muslims are bound to wage war against non-Muslims.

But no such duty exists. The Koran repeatedly commands Muslims to keep promises and uphold covenants. That includes treaties among nations and extends to individuals living under non-Muslim rule. Muslims have lived as minorities in non-Muslim societies since the beginning of Islam — from Christian Abyssinia to imperial China. And fiqh scholars have always insisted that Muslims in non-Muslim lands must obey the laws of those lands and do no harm within host countries. If local law conflicts with Muslims’ sharia obligations? Some scholars say they should emigrate; others allow them to stay. But none advocate violence or a takeover of those governments.

Asifa Quraishi-Landes - An associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Black Cow on a Dark Road Has Deadly Results

A 59-year-old Kansas man was killed when the motorcycle he was driving Friday night collided with a black cow on a blacktopped road, reports KAKE. Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Brant Birney said there were no witnesses when James Zordel hit the cow on a paved rural road about six miles south of Interstate 70 near Russell. It’s not clear if Zordel was speeding or if the cow suddenly appeared from the side of the road, notes the AP. “It was dark. He was driving down a blacktop road and he hit a black cow,“ Birney said, adding that exactly what caused the accident may never be known. Zordel, who was not wearing a helmet, died at the scene.

►   NYC Tourists Warned About ‘Hostile’ Monks

New York City Buddhist leaders are sounding the alarm to tourists: Beware the “fake monks.“ Men in orange robes claiming to be Buddhist monks are approaching visitors to some of the city’s most popular attractions, handing them shiny medallions and offering greetings of peace. They then hit them up for donations to help them build a temple in Thailand, and are persistent if their demands are refused. “The problem seems to be increasing,“ said the Rev. TK Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, a group that represents nearly two dozen Buddhist temples, tells the AP. “They are very aggressive and hostile if you don’t give them money.“

Nakagaki’s group has taken to the streets and social media to warn people that the men appear to have no affiliation to any Buddhist temple. “Please be aware,“ read one Facebook post, “this is a scam.“ The AP spotted men in brightly colored robes harassing tourists in Times Square and along the High Line elevated park. Some of the monks were later seen handing wads of cash to another man waiting nearby. The AP tried to ask several men about their background and the temple they said the donations were being used to support. Each claimed to be a Buddhist monk collecting money for a temple in Thailand, but none could give its name or say where exactly it is located. All the men refused to give their names and ran off when pressed for answers.

►   7 Stabbed at California Neo-Nazi Rally

There were chaotic and bloody scenes outside California’s Capitol building Sunday when a far-right group calling itself the Traditionalist Worker Party tried to hold a rally. Witnesses tell the Los Angeles Times that things turned violent as soon as a few dozen members of the white supremacist group turned up at the Sacramento rally, where they were met by hundreds of anti-Nazi demonstrators. At least nine people were hospitalized—seven of them with stab wounds—and many others suffered cuts, scrapes, and bruises. A Sacramento police spokesman tells the AP that the group had a permit to hold the rally and at least 100 police officers had been there to try to keep order.

The TWP, formed last year as an offshoot of the Traditionalist Youth Network, another white nationalist group, had said the rally aimed to show the “precarious situation our race is in.“ But “the purpose of the protest was actually a reaction around the Donald Trump rallies where working-class white Americans were trying to peacefully organize, not on racial terms,“ group spokesman Matt Parrott tells the Sacramento Bee. Parrott is believed to be the father-in-law of TWP leader Matthew Heimbach, who was described by the Washington Post earlier this year as the “next David Duke” after he was filmed shoving a protesters at a Trump rally in Kentucky. Before the rally, Heimbach tweeted a photo of some “brave comrades.“

►   Rainbow Flags, Victims’ Images at Pride Parades

Rainbow flags were held high along with portraits of the dead as thousands of people marched Sunday in gay pride parades tempered by this month’s massacre at a Florida gay nightclub, the AP reports. Crowds of onlookers stood a dozen deep along Fifth Avenue for New York City’s parade. Some spectators held up orange “We are Orlando” signs, and indications of increased security were everywhere, with armed officers standing by. An announcer introducing state officials and guests also shouted out, “Love is love! New York is Orlando!“ in memory of the 49 people killed in Florida. Elected officials turned out in force, as did presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

She walked several blocks of the march, joining New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Rev. Al Sharpton for a brief appearance at Stonewall Inn, the bar where a 1969 police raid helped catalyze the gay rights movement. On Sunday, with her Twitter handle appearing in rainbow colors, Clinton wrote: “One year ago, love triumphed in our highest court. Yet LGBT Americans still face too many barriers. Let’s keep marching until they don’t.“ Marchers in Chicago and San Francisco expressed similar sentiments about prejudice and brutality, but still managed to make merry. “We had fun. That is what gay people do,“comedian Guy Branum wrote in a New York Times essay earlier this month after attending the West Hollywood parade. “Our answer to loss and indignity, it seems, is to give a party, have a parade and celebrate bits of happiness.“

►   Study Finds Cause of ‘Mystery Holes’ in Sand Dune

The mystery holes that plague an Indiana sand dune—and triggered its public closure when one nearly swallowed a 6-year-old boy—are apparently caused by a “ghost forest” of underground trees. Per a recent study, buried trees at Mount Baldy dune are decaying and breaking in a way that sucks up sand while giving the holes a temporary structure, the AP reports. The finding hinges on “calcium-carbonate-rich cement” that researchers found growing on the trees. In the sand, parts of “decayed trees progressively collapse and infill, and open holes are temporarily stabilized by the calcium-carbonate-rich cement,“ the researchers wrote in Aeolian Research in 2015. “Further, holes can exist undetected at the surface, covered by a thin veneer of sand.“

Lead author Erin Argyilan had already said she believed a “ghost forest” was behind the sudden holes, the Indianapolis Star reported in 2015. Now she wants to figure out what’s causing the “cement,“ which may flourish when tree-decaying fungi comes in contact with sand. “The work we are doing now will show ... how the materials got there,“ she tells Indiana University Northwest News. She’s also involved in a study that will create a map of possibly dangerous areas at the dune. No one’s saying whether Mount Baldy at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will reopen, but there may be a bigger question: “There are actually a lot of places around the country ... where dunes are covering trees,“ says Argyilan. “Learning about the real mechanisms behind it will help us assess risk in other locations.“

►   Billy Joel, Cuomo Launch Motorcycle Ride

New York’s governor will ride alongside music icon Billy Joel in a statewide motorcycle ride to raise awareness about breast cancer before signing legislation that expands access to screenings for the disease. Governor Andrew Cuomo will begin his ride Monday morning at Sunken Meadow Park on Long Island, reports the AP. From there, the Democratic governor will ride alongside his girlfriend, Food Network star and breast cancer survivor Sandra Lee, and the Piano Man himself. The trio will join hundreds of motorcycle riders as they travel into New York City, stopping at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan before heading upstate. The ride will end Monday evening in New Paltz. Cuomo is poised to sign legislation along the ride that would compel 210 hospitals to expand hours when mammograms are offered and require insurance companies to eliminate deductibles and copays for the screening and other diagnostic tests.

“Early detection is the best possible treatment for breast cancer, but far too many women face burdensome scheduling and insurance barriers that prevent them from gaining access to the diagnostic services they need and deserve,“ Cuomo said in a statement. “This ride is about spreading awareness and sending that message loud and clear, because when it comes to getting screened for cancer, waiting is simply not worth the risk.“ Some 15,000 women across the state are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 2,640 die from the disease. Harley Davidson is donating a custom motorcycle for the governor to ride. It will later be auctioned off by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the governor’s office said. A second motorcycle ride is planned for next month.

►   America’s Got a New Ugliest Dog

The Free Press WV

America has a new ugliest dog, and she is a doozy: Sweepee Rambo is a 4lb. Chinese Crested Chihuahua who is 17 years old and blind in both eyes, reports the New York Times. Sweepee Rambo was a gift from owner Jason Wurtz to his ex-wife, though Good Morning America notes that Wurtz got the dog in the divorce because his ex thought the dog was, well, homely. Sweepee was a runner-up in last year’s contest, and beat out competition this year that included Himisaboo—a dog with hair being compared to Donald Trump. “We’re proud to celebrate all dogs and pets by showing that no matter their imperfections, they are adoptable, lovable and a great add to any family,” says the CEO of the Sonoma-Marin Fair in California, which hosted the contest.

►   Fire-Walkers Defend ‘Awesome’ Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins has taken a lot of heat since dozens of people at one of his seminars were injured last week in Dallas while walking over hot coals. But not everyone is breathing fire on the motivational guru. First, and not surprisingly, Robbins’ rep Jennifer Connelly defended the “Unleash the Power Within” exercise, per NBC News, in a statement: “Seven thousand attendees successfully participated in a fire walk [that] has been a celebrated part of this event for 35 years.“ And while she also expressed her gratitude to emergency responders who treated what the Washington Post reports were 30 to 40 “burn victims” (five had to be hospitalized), she noted outside assistance really wasn’t necessary, since Robbins’ events always have medical personnel to treat the small percentage (“fewer than 1%“) of attendees who may get “hot spots” on their feet during the hot-coal stroll.

Local officials appear to back up Connelly’s assessment: A rep for the Dallas fire department tells the Post that Robbins’ group had all necessary permits and that there were two fire-prevention officers, two paramedics, and a rescue unit on hand. And the director of the Dallas convention center where the seminar was held notes Robbins did the coal walk there two years ago “without any incidents that we are aware of.“ But perhaps Robbins’ strongest defenders are those who actually attended the event, with fans praising him as “awesome” and insisting that attendees distracted by taking selfies and even the outside medical response may have exacerbated the problem. One gushes to NBC about Robbins’ “unique gift,“ while a six-time attendee says, “All of a sudden you had these ambulances showing up—sirens blaring, lights blaring—and we’ve still got people trying to walk.“ He adds Robbins’ past seminars have been “an amazing, outstanding experience every time.“

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Pope: Christians Should Apologize for Offending Gays

It was quintessential Pope Francis: On a plane journey back from a foreign trip on Sunday, the pontiff made a statement that once would have been considered jaw-droppingly radical. In a response to reporter’s question, Francis said the church should apologize for offending and discriminating against gays over the years, the BBC reports. “I believe that the church not only should apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended,“ he said, “but has to apologize to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labor; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.“ Francis stressed that when he says “the church.“ he means Christians. “The Church is holy, we are sinners!“ he said.

Francis—who made waves three years ago when he asked: Who am I to judge gays?—has been hailed by gay rights groups for his groundbreaking statements, though he has reaffirmed church policy that actually having gay sex is sinful, the BBC notes. The pope was on his way home from Armenia, where he once again enraged Turkish authorities by describing the mass killing of Armenians a century ago as genocide, reports CNN. He also addressed Britain’s vote to leave the EU, saying that while “something that is not working in that unwieldy union” and EU countries should be given more independence to creatively deal with their problems, “let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.“

►   Roller Coaster Car Full of Kids Goes Flying

People watched in horror Sunday as a roller coaster car flew off the rails and plummeted 30 feet to the ground at a Scottish theme park, injuring two adults and up to nine children. Eyewitnesses say the car from the Tsunami roller coaster landed upside-down on another ride at M&D’s theme park near Glasgow and left around 10 people trapped inside—most of whom were just kids, the Scotsman reports. “A lot of people in the park ran over and tried to help and there was loads of people just running about trying to tell people to call ambulances and call emergency services,“ an eyewitness tells the BBC. “Everybody was shocked and upset and a lot of them were crying with shock.“

A chef working at the park managed to free a girl using alan keys, and a doctor tended to a boy whose injuries “looked really bad,“ a witness tells the Herald Scotland. “[Soon] the fire crews arrived and the ambulances so we just took a step back at the stage. But it was brutal. One guy who’d been on the ride was about 20 meters away from it.“ The Tsunami roller coaster, which winds through turns and loops at up to 40 mph, doesn’t allow children under 10 and only lets on under-14s when accompanied by a paying adult. A rep from M&D’s says the park is “closed until further notice.“

►   The 10 Most Reputable Countries

Congrats, Sweden. The country is considered the most reputable, according to the Reputation Institute, which has produced a top 10 ranking based on how “welcoming, safe, and beautiful” a country is, according to a press release. More specifically, the rankings come from 58,000 ratings on economy, environment, and government, per the Local. Last year, Canada ranked top, while Sweden has held the third spot for the past two years. The full list:

  1. Sweden
  2. Canada
  3. Switzerland
  4. Australia
  5. Norway
  6. Finland
  7. New Zealand
  8. Denmark
  9. Ireland
  10. Netherlands

►   After 20-Year Hunt, Italy Busts Mobster in Bed

Italy’s second most sought-after fugitive, a convicted, ruthless ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate boss, was captured Sunday as he slept in his bed in a hideout in the rugged Calabrian mountains, reports the AP. Ernesto Fazzalari “went from his sleep to the handcuffs of the Carabinieri” paramilitary police after 20 years on the run, Col. Lorenzo Falferi told reporters. Reggio Calabria Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho described Fazzalari as “a merciless killer” and a protagonist of the 1991-1992 turf feud between ‘Ndrangheta clans that bloodied the Taurianova town area of Calabria in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula. In one macabre episode, a victim’s head was tossed into the air and shot at as a target. Falferi called Fazzalari, 46, one of Italy’s most dangerous fugitives from the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates.

Hanging over Fazzalari’s head is a life sentence. He has been convicted of two murders, attempted murder, extortion, and being a member of a Mafia-like organization. Authorities said Fazzalari was sleeping alongside his companion, a 41-year-old woman. The woman was arrested for investigation of weapons possession. The No. 1 wanted fugitive in Italy is Matteo Messina Denaro, a Sicilian Cosa Nostra chieftain whose power base is in western Sicily. Fazzalari’s two decades spent eluding capture was aided by a combination of a widely-followed code of silence known as “omerta” and complicity from local citizens, authorities said. He and his ‘Ndrangheta allies “controlled every clod of dirt,“ Prosecutor Cafiero De Raho said. “He was feeling protected in his territory, by his people.“

►   Panama Canal Christens Its $5B Gamble

With a band playing and flags waving, a Chinese ship carrying more than 9,000 containers on Sunday entered the newly expanded locks that will double the Panama Canal’s capacity in a multibillion-dollar bet on a bright economic future despite tough times for international shipping. Several tug boats pulled “Cosco Shipping Panama” into the new locks at Agua Clara under a cloudy sky in Colon province. “This is the route that unites the world,“ said Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, per the AP. “It’s a one-time experience, a great achievement,“ says a bystander. “Panama is showing the world that even though it is a small country it can do great things.“ Nearly two years late, the $5.25 billion project formally launched with the 158-foot-wide, 984-foot-long, Chinese-owned container ship. It’s one of the modern class of mega-vessels that will now be able to use the canal.

With 30,000 people and eight foreign heads of state expected at the daylong festivities, officials are bullish. However, the party comes amid a lull in global shipping due to the drop in oil prices, an economic slowdown in China, the canal’s second-largest customer, and other factors. While authorities anticipate increasing commerce between Asia and ports on the US East Coast, doubts remain that those ports are ready to handle the huge New Panamex-class cargo ships. Net cargo volume through the canal from the US East Coast toward Asia fell 10.2% in 2015. “Supply and demand on a world level is what will decide whether the Panama Canal will really bring more volume or not,“ says a rep for Maersk Line, which moves about 14.2% of world commerce. “What is certain is that the current canal has maxed out.“

►   In Wake of Brexit, Scotland Threatens Revolt

The Brexit continues to reverberate: As a wave of British MPs stepped down Sunday over the vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s First Minister says Britain could be leaving by itself—and Nicola Sturgeon is putting her money where her mouth is, saying “of course” she’s ready to block approval of the move in her parliament. “If the Scottish parliament was judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland then the option of saying that we’re not going to vote for something that is against Scotland’s interest, of course that’s going to be on the table,“ Sturgeon says.

As Reuters reports, Scotland voted against the Brexit 62% to 38%, as opposed to the 52% to 48% margin that carried it in the whole UK. When Scotland voted against independence two years ago, a main argument for staying was to remain a part of the EU; with that argument now gone, Sturgeon says that a new referendum on Scottish independence is “highly likely.“ Meanwhile, John Kerry is headed for London and Brussels on Monday, reports the AP. He’s urging leaders to “work together to provide as much continuity, as much stability, as much certainty as possible” as the divorce goes through.

►   Iraq: Fallujah ‘Fully Liberated’ From ISIS

A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was “fully liberated” from Islamic State militants on Sunday, after a more than monthlong military operation. Iraqi troops have entered the northwestern al-Julan neighborhood, the last area of Fallujah to remain under ISIS control, the head of the counterterrorism forces, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, told the AP. Al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, “is done and the city is fully liberated.“ The Iraqi army was backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias. “From the center of al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief…and declare that the Fallujah fight is over,“ he told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.

He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from streets and buildings. The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Fallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city center and took control of a government complex. While al-Abadi pledged the remaining pockets of ISIS fighters would be cleared out within hours, fierce clashes on the city’s northern and western edges persisted for days. The operation has fueled an exodus of thousands, overwhelming camps for the displaced. According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 have fled Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began. Like other aid agencies, the UNHCR warned of dire conditions in the camps, where temperatures are well over 100 degrees and shelter is limited, calling for more funds to meet mounting needs. Fallujah has been under ISIS control since January 2014.

►   UK Flails in Deepening Brexit Turmoil

The UK remains in disarray after last week’s Brexit vote, with the pound continuing to slump, chaos at the top of both main political parties, and widespread confusion over what leaving the European Union is going to involve. Top figures in the ruling Conservative Party have been jockeying for position since Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation Friday, but the opposition Labour Party is in no position to take advantage, the New York Times reports. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing rebellion from party members who fear his leftist policies will doom the party to defeat in a possible election this year. At least 10 members of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned after he fired shadow foreign secretary Hillary Benn in an attempt to stop a leadership coup. In other developments:

  • The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy are meeting in Berlin today and the speed of Britain’s departure is expected to be the main focus of talks, the BBC reports. France and Germany say they are in “full agreement,“ though it isn’t clear exactly what the position they agree on is.
  • Boris Johnson, a key Brexit supporter who is seeking to replace Cameron as prime minister, toned down his position so much in his weekly Telegraph column that it almost seemed like a U-turn. He said Britain will continue to increase cooperation with the EU in many areas, any changes will come slowly, and Brexit supporters need to accept that a 52% to 48% victory is “not entirely overwhelming,“ the Guardian reports.
  • In early trading, indexes in Britain, France, and Germany all fell, with banking stocks particularly hard hit. “The extent of the uncertainty that now clouds the UK’s economic and political outlook is hard to exaggerate,“ Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale, tells CNN.
  • The Washington Post spoke to voters in Tilbury, a fading port town in southeast England that heavily backed Brexit, and finds that many of them are already regretting the vote, feeling that they were lied to by politicians in the Leave campaign.
  • Reuters reports that since Cameron says he won’t personally trigger Article 50 to leave the EU, it is far from clear when the British exit will actually happen. Some officials now say a vote in Parliament will have to happen first, though EU foreign ministers now want the exit to happen quickly.

►   Plane Makes Emergency Landing, Bursts Into Flames

All 222 passengers and 19 crew from a Singapore Airlines flight are safe and unharmed after a terrifying incident early Monday. The airline says the Boeing 777-3000 was on its way from Singapore to Milan when the pilot decided to turn back after receiving an engine oil warning message, the AP reports. It landed back at Singapore’s Changi Airport more then four hours later—and just after it came to a halt, its right engine burst into flames as horrified passengers looked on. “By the time the fire engines reached the plane, the flames were about a meter high,“ passenger Amit Jain tells Today. “When we could see the flames rising, some people were trying to remove their bags from the overhead compartments, which was crazy,“ he says. “I heard a few people scream ‘Open the doors!‘ and ‘Let us out!‘“

The airline and the airport say the blaze was extinguished within minutes, CNN reports. The passengers were transferred to another flight to Milan. Passengers say they could smell oil while the plane was in the air, but they didn’t realize how close to death they were until afterward, the BBC reports. Analyst Greg Waldron at Flightglobal says it appears the pilots did everything right by turning back when they discovered the problem and dumping fuel along the way. “When the plane slows down as you land, fuel can cling to the wing and surfaces. Sparks from the hot brakes after they landed could have the triggered the fire and it does appear quite dramatic. But they appear to have gotten that under control very quickly,“ he says, per Reuters. “There don’t appear to be any procedural issues here.“

►   This City Is Sinking Twice as Fast as New Orleans

If New Orleans is sinking, Beijing might as well be in freefall. A new study in the journal Remote Sensing finds depleted groundwater is causing the Chinese capital—the growing Chaoyang district, in particular—to sink as much as four inches per year; a recent study found New Orleans was sinking up to two inches per year. As CNN reports, Beijing is the world’s fifth most water-stressed city, using an estimated 3.5 billion liters per year—two-thirds of which comes from groundwater accumulated over millennia. As the water is extracted, surrounding soil dries up and compacts. Researchers, who used satellite imagery and GPS data, say Beijing has sunk about 14 inches in the last decade alone. The weight of new buildings and roads is also playing a role, per Christian Science Monitor.

Researchers predict the continued subsidence will produce “a strong impact on train operations” in the city. A separate study on subsidence effects is due out later this year, per the Guardian. In the meantime, the sinking could be eased by proper enforcement of groundwater pumping regulations. “There are some rules but the enforcement is doubtful,“ one Chinese environmentalist says. Beijing could also learn from Shanghai, which was sinking at about four inches per year in the 1950s and ‘60s but now falls less than half an inch annually after opting to use river water for daily use. Last year, China began building tunnels and canals to alleviate stress on aquifers. But elsewhere, concerns are greater. Mexico City and Jakarta are sinking up to 11 inches per year, researchers say.

GSC Participating in Second Chance Pell Program

The Free Press WV

GLENVILLE, WV - Glenville State College has been named by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) as the only college in West Virginia to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program. The program, which includes 66 other educational institutions across the United States, will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. The program builds on the USDOE’s commitment to contribute to a more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

GSC and the other selected colleges and universities will partner with 141 Federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. Through the Second Chance Pell pilot program, Federal Pell Grant funds will be made available to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.

“Education has long been an avenue for achieving more meaningful employment and we applaud the Department’s efforts to reduce chances for re-incarceration. Glenville State College is proud to be the only college in West Virginia to help these students earn a chance for better jobs upon their release,” said GSC President Dr. Peter Barr.

Since 2005, Glenville State College has been an active partner in educating the incarcerated population at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Gilmer. GSC and FCI Gilmer have an educational agreement that will be expanded to a larger percentage of their population by allowing them to use their Federal Pell Grant money. GSC already offers a two-year degree program in business at FCI Gilmer and has seen over 50 individuals complete that program. With the announcement of the Second Chance Pell program, offerings will expand to include two- and four-year programs in business and natural resource management with a concentration in land surveying. Plans are being made for GSC to offer programs at Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County as well.

“We are looking forward to our partnership with Huttonsville Correctional Center and we appreciate how accommodating and open the administrators at that facility have been. It will obviously help their incarcerated population but we also see it as helping the economy in the Elkins area as we will be looking for adjunct faculty to teach the courses,” said GSC’s Institutional Program Coordinator Jonathan Massey. Interested instructors should contact Massey at 304.462.6022.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said, “The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.” He added, “I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them become active and engaged citizens.”

This announcement comes on the heels of another invitation from the Department of Education that gives Glenville State College exclusive permission to take part in their nationwide experiment for high school students taking dual enrollment courses. That program opens access to Federal Pell Grants for eligible West Virginia high school students to take part in GSC dual enrollment courses at no cost. GSC’s inclusion in the initiative was announced in May.

Taylor Bridge Dedication in Troy, WV

The Free Press WV

On Friday, June 17, Senator Kent Leonhardt, Delegate Roger Handshaw and U.S. Army Col John Hess dedicated the bridge crossing Leading Creek in Troy, WV in memory of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert D. Taylor, “Taylor”.  Attending the ceremony were many of Taylor’s classmates, family, and friends.  All of his friends called him Taylor.

Taylor graduated from Gilmer County High School in 1981 and went on to enlist in the U.S. Army.  Taylor loved to go fast and fly high and he got to fulfill the dream by flying Cobra Helicopters for the U.S. Army. 

Officer Taylor was aboard an AH-1 Cobra Helicopter assigned to the 5th Bn, 501st Aviation Regiment U.S. Army patrolling the Korean demilitarized zone between South and North Korea and was killed on November 13, 1991. 

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

The bridge being dedicated in his memory crosses Leading Creek served as the state road access to the community where the Taylor family lived. The bridge is just east of the community of Troy on WV Highway 47 on the road formerly known as Spruce Run Road now named as Hemlock Run Road.

When Taylor lived on “Spruce Run” there was an old steel truss bridge. The bridge was replaced in 2010 with a new concrete span that meets today engineering and safety standards and was designed by Tim Hermansdorfer, project managed by Chris Williams and Kelly Kees and Project Supervisor was Gary Butler of the WV Department of Highways.

Construction on the bridge was done by Kenton Meadows Construction of Gassaway, WV.

Delegate Handshaw talked about the quality work District 7 DOH employees had done in Gilmer County and the need for more resources to maintain the aging infrastructure.

“Safe roads and bridges are important to West Virginia’s economy and the State needs to continue to invest resources to address maintenance and improve road surfaces.” 

The Free Press WV

Senator Leonhardt said “We had a great turn out of family, friends and classmates to help remember Taylor’s service to our country. I appreciate the Lewis County Honor Guard, students from Leading Creek School and others that participated in honoring Taylor.  It is important that we remember those that gave their lives for our freedom and those that are still serving and fighting to keep this world a safer place. We must not take our freedom for granted”.

Senator Leonhardt presented Robert Taylor’s mom, Alice Taylor, and brother, Richard, with a memorial sign and closed his remarks by saying, “Let this simple sign remind us of the sacrifice of the Taylor family, but all the families whose son and daughters gave their lives so that we may enjoy our freedoms.  We can never repay the this debt of sacrifice but we must try by being a country worthy of the sacrifice.” 

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center Offers Direct Scheduling

The Free Press WV

Clarksburg, WV – On Monday, June 27, 2016 Veterans who are enrolled at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center can begin making appointments with their local VA Audiology and Optometry clinics without seeing their VA Primary Care physician first. This is a significant change to doing business at VA because previously, enrolled Veterans had to visit their Primary Care Physician for a referral, even if they had no other health care issues.

The idea for this process improvement came from interviews with employees throughout the country who felt that this change would save time for Veterans and free up Primary Care clinical time. Research confirmed that valuable Primary Care access was partially being used for routine Audiology and Optometry referrals, while demand for Primary Care services was outgrowing the capacity of the Primary Care clinics. Direct Scheduling will save time for the Veterans and free up clinical time for Primary Care doctors.

This change is part of a nation-wide VA rollout of Direct Scheduling to Audiology and Optometry clinics, which VA expects to complete by the end of 2016. LAJVAMC has been selected to participate in the first phase of the VA nation-wide rollout of Direct Scheduling of Audiology and Optometry services.

“Direct Scheduling across all Audiology and Optometry clinics has the potential to decrease facility wait times by alleviating the case flow to Primary Care physicians, and would thereby improve the Veteran experience and access to services,” said Dr. Glenn R. Snider, Medical Center Director, “We are honored to be a leader in this effort. Taking the lead in efforts like Direct Scheduling affirms the VA’s commitment to fostering a Veteran-centric culture of care which honors Veterans’ service and empowers Veterans to achieve optimum health and well-being.”

For more information on Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, contact the Scheduling Department at 304.623.3461x7676. If you would like to enroll with the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, please visit or contact the Enrollment Department at 304.623.3461x3332.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   death total from WV flood reduced

CHARLESTON, WV — The state of West Virginia has reduced the death total from last week’s historic flood from 25 to 23.

State Homeland Security and Office of Emergency Services Director Jimmy Gianato confirmed the reduction during Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The death totals are now:

Greenbrier County 12 bodies recovered and 3 unaccounted for and presumed dead.

Kanawha County-6

Jackson County-1

Ohio County-1

Gianato said the state Medical Examiner’s Office adjusted its number late Sunday. The change came in Greenbrier County where the number was 17. It’s now been reduced to a total of 15.

►   Greenbrier Resort Opens Doors to Flood Victims

The Greenbrier Resort is opening its doors to victims devastated by flooding in West Virginia.

In a statement Saturday evening, the resort said it is offering a limited number of rooms and meals to those with no place to go for as long as the resort is closed for business.

Greenbrier owner and CEO Jim Justice said, “We just hope that by providing a good meal and a comfortable and safe place to spend the night that we can help ease the pain just a little to those who are suffering so much from this unbelievable disaster.“

The PGA Tour canceled the Greenbrier Classic scheduled for next month because of the devastating flooding. The tournament had been scheduled for July 07-10.

►   Price gouging being investigated by WV Attorney General following flooding

Accusations of price gouging have West Virginia’s Attorney General Investigating.

A spokesperson for AG Patrick Morrisey says members of the office are taking calls from the public and they are working to gather information so claims can be investigated.

“We stand ready to assist any consumer in this time of crisis,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The impact of this disaster will not disappear overnight. Neither will my office’s commitment to help those in need.”

According to the news release:

The consumer tip line can be reached at 1.800.368.8808 or online at It will remain operational with extended, weekend hours from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

It should be a resource for anyone with questions about suspicious charities, dubious contractors and/or potential violations of the state’s price gouging statute.

That law specifically prohibits any person, business, or contractor from inflating the price of select consumer items by more than 10 percent of what it sold for 10 days prior to the declaration.

►   24 dead in West Virginia floods; search and rescue continues

Surrounded by muddy devastation, Cathy Light and her husband Chris thought it was “heaven sent” they had free burgers to munch on in a Clendenin parking lot Saturday.

To their left, the roof of a Dairy Queen slumped to the pavement. Behind it, a trailer home was ripped from its foundation, with four concrete stairs all that remained in the ground. Occasional whiffs of rotten food wafted from a nearby grocery store that, not long ago, was filled with five feet of muck water.

Before they jumped in a rescue boat in Clendenin on Saturday, the Lights could only save their dog Odie and a TV that sat atop a bedroom dresser – the highest-up they stored anything in their house, really.

The heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia resulted in at least 24 deaths, leaving families homeless with the tearful realization that they’re starting from scratch.

“I don’t have anything,“ said Cathy Light, as she ate the free meal provided by Grace Community Church. “Where do we go now?“

The scene in Clendenin, located in Kanawha County, wasn’t as deadly as in Rainelle. Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in Ranielle. Greenbrier is the only county where Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration believes people remain missing.

“It does not appear there are unaccounted for people in other counties, but it’s still a somewhat fluid situation,“ said Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s chief of staff.

Rainelle Mayor Andrea “Andy” Pendleton wept as she surveyed her town Saturday.

“I weep for my people, I weep for the businesses,“ she said.

About six buses full of people whose homes were either without power or too damaged to inhabit were evacuated. Some were taken initially to a fire department facility, but then it flooded so they were moved to an abandoned store. When that started to flood, buses took the evacuees to a church 40 miles away.

Search and rescue teams went house to house, marking those checked with a spray-painted ‘X.‘ Abandoned pets were taken to a shelter. A water department filtration system, built with a $2.6 million loan, was damaged, Pendleton said.

Help came from multiple sources, including two search and rescue teams from Virginia.

Six other deaths were reported in Kanawha, in addition to one each in Jackson and Ohio counties. About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their cars. A gravel access road was built to let them out.

On Saturday, Tomblin was approved for a major federal disaster declaration to get help for Greenbrier and the two other counties hardest hit by flooding. Tomblin’s office said he made an expedited verbal request Saturday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for individual assistance for Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Individual assistance includes housing and crisis counseling.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in Greenbrier County, where The Greenbrier luxury resort and golf course is nestled in the mountains. The PGA Tour has canceled a tournament there from July 4-10 because the course is overrun by floodwaters.

“Cancelling The Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation,“ PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news release Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.“

Resort owner Jim Justice said the needs of flood-ravaged West Virginians are of utmost concern. Two health-care facilities at the resort will be open this weekend to provide care for residents. The resort will also offer a limited amount of free rooms and meals to those affected by the floods for as long as the resort is closed for business, Justice said in a statement Saturday evening.

“All of our focus needs to be on helping all of the people of our great state,“ Justice said in a news release. “So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go.“

An area near the West Virginia-Virginia border received at least 9 inches of rain while other parts of the state had 3 to 5 inches, National Weather Service hydrologist John Sikora said. A flood warning remains in effect for Greenbrier County until 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Others waited days to see their loved ones rescued.

Kari Townsend of Clendenin sat at a shelter in Charleston for most of Friday before her niece, Britani Shafer, and her niece’s five-month-old baby, Shay, made it to safety.

The mother and child had been holed up in a doctor’s office in flooded downtown Clendenin since Thursday afternoon, and started running out of baby formula. Shafer could only send a couple text messages to let her family know what was going on.

Shafer’s neighbor was able to get her out in a truck, and he drove the pair back to meet up with their family.

“There was not a dry eye, let me tell you,“ Townsend said. “The baby is fine, (Britani Shafer) is good. It’s awesome.“

►   “A Town Built to Carry On”

RAINELLE, WV — Rainelle: “A Town Built to Carry On” is the first thing you see when traveling to or through West Virginia’s Rainelle. It’s the town’s slogan, and it’s a powerful one. It’s tough to say that people can “carry on” when they’ve been displaced by some of the worst flooding in West Virginia history, but in Rainelle, at least some of the residents are.

Terry Cordial has lived in her Rainelle home for eight years. Like a lot of the town, her family’s choice was tied to having previously worked in now bankrupted and abandoned coal mines.

“This was my husband’s family home for twenty-some years,” said Cordial. “Water has gotten to the porch, but never inside the house. It come fast, I just couldn’t believe it,” she went on, gesturing above her waist where the water rose to on the family home’s first floor.

The Cordials felt lucky. They were able to save a lot of the things they care about. Their animals are safe — even if two of three dogs had to be surrendered to a rescue team for their safety, their high value items were moved to the highest room in the house — they’re safe, and the family is safe.

“We’re just happy we have our lives, it’s more than others have.”

She went on to describe how people had lost their loved ones in Rainelle, “even during the rescue attempt, they were taken by the water.”

“My neighbors, they’re mostly elderly and disabled. If you hear that any of them need help, please let me know if I can help them,” she said while piling her possessions, now in black Hefty bags to be removed like the weekly trash.

Cordial’s family fleet of four vehicles was left totaled by the floods, like most of Rainelle’s automobiles, so I offered to leave her with some of the cases of water brought from Morgantown to help.

“I have two cases,” said Cordial.

“We don’t want more than we need in this moment. We’ll get it if we need it, but there are others who need it more than we do.”

It’s tough for West Virginia to stay positive this week, but Rainelle, among the most damaged from the flooding, remains positive.

Against all odds, Terry Cordial and her family will stay, and they will rebuild what they’ve lost. It’s their home, and they will carry on — Rainelle will carry on.

►   Theatre West Virginia welcomes 10 new interns

BEAVER, WV — Sing. Dance. Act. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Since June 10, aspiring performers from all across the country have been singing, dancing and acting their hearts out on stage at Grandview’s Cliffside Amphitheatre as part of Theatre West Virginia’s Professional Training Program for Musical Theatre Interns.

The young men and women, who hail from Idaho to Florida, were selected not only based on their talents, but also on their drive to improve upon their skill set.

“They’re so hungry,“ said Jason Adkins, co-director of the intern program. “That’s how we cast them — not just on talent alone. We look at more than their qualifications, we look at their personalities.“

The 10 young actors took a break from rehearsals to chat with The Register-Herald about their work at the theatre so far this summer.

For Elli Caterisano, who’s studying music and theatre at Furman University in South Carolina, she said she feels lucky to have been chosen for the internship, but the long hours have been challenging.

“Back at school, rehearsals were three hours. Now, it’s seven hours a day,“ Caterisano said. “It’s been a big adjustment. I’ve learned a lot, but it took some getting used to.“

She also said it’s been difficult to remember to stay hydrated — the group laughed and agreed as they held up their refillable water bottles in solidarity.

This summer makes the second internship Astoncia Bhagat has been a part of. Bhagat, a Western Illinois University student, previously worked for three months in five shows at Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield, Ind.

“The more you do, the more skills you gain. It takes all kinds of skills to be a professional,“ she said. “You learn how to be an individual and part of a company, and how to take care of yourself.“

Another intern, Ashley Davis, a theatre student at Louisiana Tech University, said the dance skills she’s picked up during classes and rehearsals have been incredibly helpful.

“I’ve loved working on The Addams Family,“ Davis said. “I wasn’t much of a dancer before this show.“

The interns are a part of each of Theatre West Virginia’s productions this summer — The Addams Family Musical, Hatfields and McCoys, and Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical.

They’re all excited for each of the performances for varying reasons. For Charlee Haddock, a musical theatre student at Catawba College in North Carolina, she’s most excited about shooting a gun in the West Virginia historical drama, Hatfields and McCoys.

For Luke Jaconis, another Western Illinois University student, he’s looking forward to showing off all their skills at the end of the season with Ring of Fire. The cast for the Johnny Cash musical will be comprised primarily of the summer interns.

“It’s going to be our show,“ Jaconis said. “It’s our chance to take everything we learned here, go out and do it.“

Over just a few short weeks, the 10 young men and women have formed a special bond. They already feel like family.

“The people here are amazing,“ Caterisano added. “They’ve been a backbone and a support system.“

. . .

Two talented men, Jason Adkins and Terry Chasteen, oversee the intern program — from casting and housing to scheduling and directing.

After the former director’s departure, Chasteen was set to take over. Before his got his chance though, Theatre West Virginia announced its closure in September 2013 due to financial trouble.

Even after general manager Scott Hill announced the theatre’s revitalization, there simply wasn’t enough time or money to invite interns for the Hatfield and McCoys-only 2014 season.

Last year, Chasteen was finally able to bring back the program. He reached out to Adkins, and together they worked on the syllabus, which added an emphasis on dance and singing.

They happily welcomed eight young performers to the Cliffside Amphitheatre for the 2015 summer season.

“What I saw was a confidence and comfortability that comes with performing,“ Adkins said of the improvements of last year’s interns. “Most classes provide technique, but few offer application of that onto the stage, which helps them the most.“

Chasteen agreed that it’s difficult for young performers to learn their craft through programs at school.

“Here, they’re getting their feet wet with professional experience.“

In addition to performing in the three productions, the interns will receive college credit through New River Community and Technical College for attending vocal, dance and acting lessons.

Next year, the program aims to offer even more internship slots. For more information, email Terry Chasteen at .

Be sure to look for Adkins and Chasteen throughout the summer at TWV — they’ll be performing in addition to directing the interns.

. . .

General manager Scott Hill said he’s glad to have the interns back on board this summer.

“I think it’s important we bring people in from other parts of the country, to expose them to the positives of West Virginia.“

Hill said the Mountain State shows well once visitors arrive, but if out-of-staters make their assumptions based on headlines, the state can be seen in a negative light.

“That’s not the true West Virginia.“

He’s also excited for all the opportunities this internship will afford these young performers.

“There are ripples in what we do here. It can last forever. Scott will be gone in 50 years, but some of the things we’re doing here will still be making ripples in 50 years.“

Performances of The Addams Family will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Cliffside Amphitheatre in Grandview June 22-26, 29-30 and July 01.

Hatfields and McCoys will kick off July 6, and Ring of Fire will wrap up the season starting July 20.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call 304.256.6800.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


Fiber optics feeding the area was cut in Nicholas and Webster Counties due to storm.


Britain’s decision to remove itself from the European Union brings more political turmoil as Scotland’s leader threatens to block the move.


A senior Iraqi military commander declares the city of Fallujah “fully liberated” from the extremists.


Fireworks explode as a huge container ship makes the inaugural passage through the newly expanded Panama Canal.


The injuries come as counter-protesters confront right-wing extremists who planned to rally outside the California state Capitol building.


The campaign managers for Clinton and Sanders have become a powerful political odd couple and are engineering a graceful conclusion to the hard-fought Democratic contest.


The pontiff defends his use of the term “genocide” to describe the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, saying that’s how he has always referred to the massacre. The Turks have long rejected the term.


The massacre at a Florida gay nightclub tempers this year’s gay pride parades, in which thousands marched in the U.S.


The crash of the Tsunami coaster ride at a theme park in Motherwell injures eight children and two adults.


The BET Awards plays like “The Prince Tribute Show” with performers honoring the late entertainer.


Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka are sidelined by injuries and won’t play this year. Maria Sharapova is serving a suspension for failing a drug test.

Together Women Can…

Emma Watson, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Serena Williams, Megyn Kelly, and others thank the women who have helped them and encourage women everywhere to #LeanInTogether. Brought to you by LeanIn.Org and AOL’s MAKERS, this video celebrates the power of women supporting each other – and the amazing things that happen when they do. Learn more at

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion restrictions

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas abortion restrictions that had caused more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to close.

The decision was a win for abortion rights advocates, who say that state legislatures around the country have passed more than 200 restrictions on abortion in the last five years.

The challenged Texas provisions required doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and said that clinics must meet hospital-like standards of surgical centers.

Similar restrictions have been passed in other states, and officials say they protect patients. But abortion providers and medical associations say the rules are unnecessary and so expensive or hard to satisfy that they force clinics to close.

The opinion was written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer and joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

Breyer wrote that each restriction “provide few if any health benefits for women, pose a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions and constitutes a, ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

The justices were applying a test the court formulated nearly 25 years ago. It said states had a legitimate interest in regulating abortion procedures but could not make them so onerous as to impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability.

Included in the description of such a burden was “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.”

►   Dozens burned in Texas walking on hot coals at Tony Robbins seminar

As many as 40 people were injured after walking on hot coals as part of a self-help seminar hosted by motivational speaker Tony Robbins in Texas, fire officials said on Friday.

Attendees of the “Unleash the Power Within” event, held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, reported burns to their feet and legs just after 11 p.m. on Thursday, Dallas Fire and Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said.

“A lot of the attendees were asked to walk across hot coals, and as a result, a lot of the people sustained burn injuries,“ Evans said.

Of the 30 to 40 people injured, five were treated at the Parkland Hospital burn unit, Evans said. The others were treated and released at the scene. It was unclear how many participated in the coal walk.

The three-day seminar is intended to help people “break through any limit” and improve their quality of life, according a description posted on Robbins’ website.

Representatives for Robbins, who is a popular motivational speaker, personal finance adviser and bestselling author, were not immediately available for comment.

According to media reports, 21 out of 6,000 people who walked on hot coals at a Robbins event in 2012 in California were treated for burns.

Most people avoid burns because coals are not efficient conductors of heat, but standing too long in one spot and other factors can increase the risk. In the 2012 incident, there was speculation that the large number of people participating caused the lines of firewalkers to slow down, raising chances of burns.

►   FBI Has No Proof Orlando Gunman Was Gay: Officials

FBI investigators so far have not turned up persuasive evidence that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen was gay or pursuing gay relationships, according to two government officials familiar with the investigation who spoke anonymously to the AP. The FBI began looking into that possibility after media reports last week quoted men as saying that Mateen had reached out to them on gay dating apps and had frequented the gay nightclub where the June 12 massacre took place. One man claimed to be Mateen’s gay lover in an interview with Univision, while another recalled Mateen as a regular at the Pulse club who tried to pick up men. But the officials say the FBI—which has conducted 500 interviews, has recovered Mateen’s phone, and is reviewing evidence from it—has not found concrete evidence to corroborate such accounts.

They also cautioned that the investigation is ongoing and that nothing has formally been ruled out. Law enforcement officials have said there’s no doubt that Mateen was radicalized at some point before the attack, though there’s no evidence that he was directed by any foreign terror groups. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch has taken pains not to describe radical extremism as his sole motivation and declined in an interview with the AP on Tuesday to rule out any other possibility, including that he was secretly gay. “It’s entirely possible that he had a singular motive,“ she said. “It’s entirely possible that he had a dual motive.“

►   Flooding Kills 24 in West Virginia

As a deluge swamped southeast West Virginia—a disaster that killed at least 18 people—Ronnie Scott’s wife called him and told him their house was filling up with water. She fled to the attic with two dogs and a cat and waited. She smelled natural gas. Then, the house blew up. Belinda Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch, then make it onto a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police, Ronnie Scott told the AP on Friday. His wife was in the hospital with burns on 67% of her body. The pets did not make it out alive. “My wife was out there four and a half hours hanging in a tree with a house burning right beside her, flood waters running all around her,“ said Scott, who was not at the White Sulphur Springs home when the waters rose.

Early reports indicate about 9 inches of rain damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands of others, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their car. “Our focus remains on search and rescue,“ the governor said during a news conference. He added: “It’s been a long 24 hours and the next 24 hours may not be much easier.“ The deaths included an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy who were swept away in rushing creek waters in different counties, authorities said. Currently 200 National Guardsmen were assisting in eight counties, helping local crews with swift water rescues, search and extraction efforts and health and welfare checks. The governor declared a state of emergency in 44 of 54 counties and authorized up to 500 soldiers to assist.

►   After Brexit, ‘Texit’ Gains Steam in Texas

Not content with celebrating liberty on July 4, a group of Texans has gleaned inspiration from Brexit—the UK’s decision to leave the EU—with its own push for independence. The similar-sounding “Texit” movement, which gained significant support online Friday, is mainly being pushed by the Texas Nationalist Movement, which is basically the US soulmate of the UK secession initiative, according to its leader, David Miller, right down to the “Leave” campaign slogan that TNM says it’s been using for years. With a motto of “Texas First, Texas Forever,“ the group, like those behind Brexit, advocates for “self-government,“ Miller tells “At this moment, we don’t enjoy that right,“ he says. “The vast majority of the laws, rules, and regulations that affect the people of Texas are created by the political class or unelected bureaucrats in Washington.“

Vocativ decided to see how often the phrase “Texit” has been used in 2016 and found that online references spiked after the Brexit tally came in. Nearly 1,800 people tweeted something Texit-related in the hour of the announcement, with thousands more tweets following. Some of the posts are frighteningly serious, others are somewhat clever (cue the “most likely to secede” memes), and still others can’t do anything but virtually shake their heads. It’s not the first time some of the state’s residents have vied for a breakaway: Right after President Obama’s reelection, the White House turned down a petition signed by 125,000 people calling for Texas’ freedom, Fox News reported. One Texit supporter tells the Guardian that a secession would bring back “Texas solutions” on issues such as gay marriage, gun rights, and immigration. (Here, a few legal takes on secession rules.)

►   Tony Robbins’ Fire-Walking Exercise Ends in Burns

One of the activities for participants of Tony Robbins’ motivational seminars is walking on hot coals, an activity that, trainers tell WFAA, most people “didn’t think was possible.“ And, well, it turns out some of them were sort of right. During Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” seminar in Dallas Thursday night, about 40 people were treated by ambulances at the scene for burns to their feet and legs; five of them had to be taken to the hospital. Robbins’ website describes the coal-walking activity like so, per the Dallas Morning News: “Storm across a bed of hot coals. Once you start doing what you thought was impossible, you’ll conquer the other fires of your life with ease.”

But maybe they just didn’t believe hard enough, or something? Witnesses say some people were simply too distracted while doing the exercise: “There was someone in front of us and someone behind us on their cell phone, taking selfies and taking pictures,“ says one apparently uninjured fire walker. “So I think that that has a lot to do with it.“ Though 40 people may sound like a lot, WFAA notes that approximately 7,000 people tried the coal-walking exercise. “I’ve been doing events with Tony for 23 years, and while it may not look like that way, this was a successful event,“ the head trainer tells CBS DFW.

►   She Was Getting Alarm to Keep Him Out. He Was Already In

A Tennessee woman had a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend and had changed her locks twice. She says neither kept Tony Joe Gunter away and so she opted to have a security system installed. Authorities say the woman left her home in Goodlettsville briefly on Tuesday to visit a neighbor as an ADT worker was installing the alarm and returned to find her phone inexplicably missing from her bedroom. Then she noticed a pair of feet sticking out from under her bed—Gunter’s. Fearing for her life, the woman shot him in his left foot then kept him there as the installer called police, authorities tell WZTV. After a hospital visit, Gunter, 52, was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary, stalking, and other charges, reports the New York Daily News.

Police say the woman won’t be charged because she acted in self defense. “If he was trying to abuse her and she had a gun and she had a restraining order against him, then she has to protect herself,“ a neighbor tells WKRN. The pair reportedly dated for two years before the woman discovered Gunter’s “extensive criminal history” and broke off the relationship this month, per WZTV. Gunter then threatened to kill his ex, according to police. She filed a restraining order but police say the woman discovered signs that Gunter had broken into her home three times before the encounter Tuesday. Gunter—who police say admitted to taking the woman’s phone so she couldn’t call police—is being held on $165,000 bond.

►   Whitey Bulger’s Belongings Go for $109K at Auction

Despite being derided as “trash” and a “glorified yard sale,“ the belongings of infamous mob kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger fetched more than $109,000 at auction Saturday, the Boston Globe reports. According to Bloomberg, the US Marshals Service was selling the items—seized during Bulger’s capture in 2011 after 16 years on the run—to benefit his victims. More than 250 “mafia history enthusiasts” and others turned out to bid. The items included a rat-shaped pen holder (fetched $3,600), the white bucket hat Bulger was wearing when he was arrested ($6,400), the newspaper he was reading right before his capture ($500), and a replica of the 1986 Stanley Cup Champions ring ($9,100). That ring was the only belonging Bulger fought with authorities to keep.

But the auction also included more mundane items, Reuters reports. A punching bag, a floor safe, books on WWII with Bulger’s handwritten notes, and a collection of sneakers (“You can walk in Whitey’s shoes,“ says the auctioneer). A “lumpy old couch” was bought for $35. Left out of the auction were Bulger’s toiletries, underwear, and Nazi memorabilia. The money brought in at the auction, combined with $800,000 in cash Bulger had on him during his arrest, is still far short of the $25 million he owes his victims. Nevertheless, authorities were glad to be rid of his belongings. “We hope this will finally be the end of the Whitey Bulger saga here in Massachusetts and for the city of Boston,“ one official tells Bloomberg. The 86-year-old former mob boss is currently serving two life sentences.

►   F. Lee Bailey, OJ Simpson’s Attorney, Files for Bankruptcy

Famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, whose legion of high-profile cases includes the OJ Simpson murder trial, has filed for bankruptcy in Maine in an effort to discharge an IRS debt of more than $5 million, the AP reports. Debts to the IRS aren’t normally discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, but the 83-year-old Bailey said Friday that they can be if one abides by certain conditions, such as filing and paying his taxes on time since the original taxes and penalties were assessed. The debt stems from a dispute of his reportable income from 1993 to 2001, according to the Portland Press Herald. Bailey served as one of Simpson’s attorneys during the former NFL star’s 1995 trial, which ended in his acquittal in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Bailey in the 1960s secured a reversal of Dr. Sam Sheppard’s conviction in the murder of his pregnant wife, and an acquittal at his second trial. He also represented Albert DeSalvo, who claimed to be the Boston Strangler. Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 over mishandling client assets, and Massachusetts issued a reciprocal disbarment in 2003. Bailey’s bid to gain admission to the Maine bar failed in 2014, when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reversed a judge’s ruling that would have allowed him to practice law in Maine. Bailey told the Press Herald he wants to discharge what he owes to the IRS. “At 83, it’s a little late to raise that kind of money overnight. It’s been a long battle,“ he said.

►   These Are the 10 Hottest U.S. Cities

You know what they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of Texas. 24/7 Wall St. has rounded up the hottest US cities based on the average number of days each year that temperatures reached at least 90 degrees since records began. A whopping seven of the top 10 are in the Lone Star State. The hottest cities and their average number of 90+ degree days:

  1. Phoenix, Ariz.: 169
  2. Tucson, Ariz.: 146
  3. Las Vegas, Nev.: 135
  4. Del Rio, Texas: 134
  5. Brownsville, Texas: 124
  6. San Antonio, Texas: 116
  7. Austin, Texas: 114
  8. San Angelo, Texas: 114
  9. Corpus Christi, Texas: 112
  10. Waco, Texas: 111

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