GilmerFreePress.net

Worldwide

Worldwide News

U.S. Declares ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Against Rohingya In Myanmar

The Free Press WV

The United States declared the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to be “ethnic cleansing” on Wednesday, threatening penalties for military officials engaged in a brutal crackdown that has sent more than 620,000 refugees flooding over the border to Bangladesh.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Myanmar’s security forces and “local vigilantes” for what he called “intolerable suffering” by the Rohingya. Although the military has accused Rohingya insurgents of triggering the crisis, Tillerson said “no provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued.”

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Tillerson said in a statement.

Although the designation carries no legal obligations for the U.S. to act, Tillerson said those who perpetrated the atrocities “must be held accountable.” He added that the U.S. wanted a full investigation and was considering “targeted sanctions” against those responsible — but not broader sanctions against the nation.

Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, seeking refuge from what Myanmar’s military has called “clearance operations.” The crisis started in August, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces, leading to a brutal crackdown in which soldiers and Buddhist mobs have killed men, raped women and girls and burned homes and property to force the Rohingya to leave.

The declaration followed a lengthy review process by President Donald Trump’s administration to determine whether the violence met the threshold to be considered ethnic cleansing. The United Nations came to that conclusion in September, but the U.S. had held off, with Tillerson saying he needed more information even as he expressed deep concern about the crisis.

Last week, Tillerson traveled to Myanmar in the highest level visit by a U.S. official since Trump took office. U.S. officials dangled the possibility of an “ethnic cleansing” designation ahead of Tillerson’s trip, potentially giving him more leverage as he met with officials in Myanmar. In the capital of Naypitaw, Tillerson met with the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as Myanmar’s powerful military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of operations in Rakhine state, home to Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

The leader of a group that works to improve conditions for the Rohingya said Thursday he hopes the declaration will strengthen the call for accountability. Arakan Project director Chris Lewa said he thought Tillerson’s visit had been relatively appreciated and he hoped it would prove constructive.

I hope that it will have the impact that (Tillerson) used the correct word I think to describe what really is going on,” Lewa said. “And I hope that the military will listen more, but it’s always difficult to predict how the military will react and sometimes it’s like they are not listening to anything at all.”

Senior State Department officials said the determination was intended to ramp up pressure on the military and others in Myanmar to resolve the conflict and repatriate refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. Yet it was also likely to intensify calls for the Trump administration and Congress to move toward new sanctions. Earlier this month, a House committee passed a nonbinding resolution condemning “murderous ethnic cleansing and atrocities” and calling on Trump to impose sanctions on those responsible for abuses.

Yet sweeping sanctions targeting Myanmar’s economy or its military as a whole are off the table, officials said, adding that the Trump administration had determined they would not be productive either for ensuring accountability or for promoting broader U.S. goals in Myanmar. Instead, the U.S. is considering sanctions against individuals only, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.

Broad-based U.S. sanctions on Myanmar were eased under former President Barack Obama as the Southeast Asian nation inched toward democracy. U.S. officials have been concerned that slapping back sanctions or pushing Myanmar’s leaders too hard on the Rohingya violence could undermine the country’s civilian government, led for the last 18 months by Suu Kyi. That could slow or reverse the country’s delicate transition away from decades of harsh military rule and risks pushing Myanmar away from the U.S. and closer to China.

The State Department has also examined whether the violence in Rakhine meets the definitions for crimes against humanity or genocide, but have so far made no such determinations. Both designations carry significant legal consequences.

Ethnic cleansing, on the other hand, isn’t recognized as an independent crime under international law, according to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention. The ethnic cleansing term surfaced in the context of the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia, when a U.N. commission defined it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.”

Human rights groups accuse the military of a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohinyga, who numbered roughly 1 million in Myanmar before the latest exodus. The Buddhist majority in Myanmar believes they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, but many Rohingya families have lived for generations in Myanmar. In 1982, they were stripped of their citizenship.

Already, the United States has curtailed its ties to Myanmar’s military over the violence. Earlier this year, the U.S. restored restrictions on granting visas to members of Myanmar’s military, and the State Department has deemed units and officers involved in operations in Rakhine state ineligible for U.S. assistance.

General: Russia Likely To Scale Down In Syria

The Free Press WV

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

The chief of the Russian General Staff says Russia is likely to scale down its military presence in Syria “significantly” before the year’s end.

Moscow embarked on an air campaign in Syria in October 2015 to prop up its longtime ally President Bashar Assad. Russia’s operation ultimately helped to turn the tide of the war in Assad’s favor.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies Thursday that the scale-down that Putin announced earlier this week will be “significant.”

Gerasimov said that two Russian bases and the Center for Reconciliation, which is responsible for monitoring truce in several areas in Syria, will stay as well as “a number of necessary structures to keep the situation where it is now.”

___

4:30 p.m.

Syria opposition representatives meeting in the Saudi capital have called for direct and unconditional negotiations with the Syrian government that would lead to the launch of a transition period.

The opposition didn’t condition its participation in the U.N-based negotiations on the departure of President Bashar Assad from office.

However, in a final communique obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, they said a peaceful and unbiased transitional period will not be possible without Assad first leaving office.

It is the first time the opposition has called on the U.N. to arrange for direct talks with the government. It also signals a degree of flexibility on Assad’s role in the transition period.

Russia, the main backer of Assad, has been pushing for new political talks, saying “there is a real chance” to end the conflict. Moscow and opposition members it backs have demanded the launch of an “unconditional” process.

__

4:05 p.m.

Russia’s chief military officer says the nation could reduce its military presence in Syria.

Thursday’s statement from Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the military’s General Staff, comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted counterparts from Turkey and Iran for talks on advancing peace process in Syria. Asked if the Russian force in Syria will be scaled down, Gerasimov said “it probably will,” according to Russian news agencies.

With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State group fighters in disarray, Putin said during talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier this week that Russia’s military campaign in Syria is wrapping up — though he made no mention of the Russian presence in Syria, which Moscow is not likely to give up.

__

1:25 p.m.

A top Turkish ruling party official says Ankara supports a political solution for Syria but retains its “red lines” on the subject of Syrian President Bashar Assad remaining president.

Mahir Unal, the spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, says Turkey made clear its reservations about Assad having any future role in Syria “after all these deaths” during a trilateral meeting with Russia and Iran that took place in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday.

Unal also said Turkey emphasized at the Sochi meeting that there must be negotiations between Assad and the opposition, which Ankara has supported from the start of the Syrian civil war.

Turkey also wants Syria to remain united and not break up, and opposes Syrian Kurdish fighters participating in negotiations on Syria’s future.

What Is the True Cost of Inequality?

The Free Press WV

The 12 months that ended this past summer, suggests the just-released annual Global Wealth Report from the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, ought to be cause for celebration. The world has never been richer. Credit Suisse’s researchers have discerned “a significant increase in wealth across the globe.” Net worth worldwide has increased by a remarkable $16.7 trillion over just the past year.

So why aren’t people worldwide cheering? That “significant increase in wealth,” the new Credit Suisse numbers make clear, has benefited only a precious few. The top 1 percent globally now hold 50.1 percent of the world’s household wealth, up from 45.5 percent at the start of the century.

Within that top 1 percent, the really rich — deep pockets with at least $50 million in net worth — are clearly leading the way. Since 2000, Credit Suisse calculates, the wealth of this “ultra high net worth” cohort has multiplied “five-fold.”

About half of these ultras, 49 percent, reside today in the United States. Credit Suisse counts 72,000 of these ultra-rich Americans. Some context: China, the host to the world’s second-highest collection of $50 million-and-up personal fortunes, has only 18,100 ultras.

Some additional context: The United States hosts over 25,000 more ultra-rich individual fortunes than the nations with next nine highest ultra-rich totals combined.


The Trickle-Down

How much of this enormous wealth at America’s economic summit trickles down to average Americans? Not much.

At first glance, that doesn’t appear to be the case. The average American adult, the Credit Suisse data show, boasts $388,585 in net worth. Only two other nations in the world — Switzerland and Australia — have higher net worth averages.

But wealth averages can be deceiving. They represent a nation’s total household net worth divided by the nation’s total number of adults. The more wealth a nation’s rich hold, the higher the average will be. A nation of one millionaire and nine other adults with no wealth at all would have an average individual net worth of $100,000.

So net worth averages can tell us next to nothing about the actual life experience of the typical person. To see how a nation’s most typical adults are doing, we need instead to calculate each nation’s median adult net worth. That means finding the net-worth level that represents the point at which half a nation’s adults have more wealth and half have less.

The new 2017 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report helpfully calculates these medians. Switzerland and Australia again top the global list. The typical Swiss adult has a net worth of $229,000. The typical Australian, $195,400. And the typical American? A mere $55,876. Twenty nations in all have higher median adult net worths than the United States.


The True Cost of Inequality

Just how much is inequality costing ordinary Americans? Comparing the United States to other more egalitarian-minded developed nations can give us a vivid sense of the high toll that inequality exacts. Take, for instance, the example of Japan, one of the world’s most equal nations.

In their new Global Wealth Report, Credit Suisse’s researchers describe the 2017 Japanese economy as “still in the doldrums.” But ordinary Japanese households would almost certainly take their “doldrums” over the economic status quo in the United States any day of the week.

The numbers explain why. The United States has over 50 times more ultra-rich than Japan, and that enormous wealth at the top has the U.S. average net worth towering over the average Japanese net worth, by a $388,586 to $225,057 margin. But Japan shares its household wealth far more equally than the United States. The typical Japanese adult holds $123,724 in net worth, much more than double the $55,876 U.S. median adult net-worth figure.

Ordinary Americans, in effect, are each paying what amounts to an “inequality tax.” If we distributed our wealth as equally as the Japanese distribute theirs, the typical American would likely be somewhere around $100,000 richer.

Or take Australia, a nation that now sports almost the exact same average adult wealth as the United States. The average Aussie has a $402,603 net worth, just a bit above the average American’s $388,586. The net worth of the median — most typical — Australian? A stunning $195,417, four times the median adult net worth in the United States.

Australians used to see their nation as a relatively equal society. They don’t anymore. Rising inequality has become a major Australian political issue. But Australia remains far more equal a society than the United States. The top 1 percent in Australia only holds an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s wealth.

America’s top 1 percent, Federal Reserve researchers reported earlier this fall, now holds 38.6 percent.

~~  Sam Pizzigati ~~

Trump Era Sparks New Debate About Nuclear War Authority

The Free Press WV

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly the U.S. military has prepared for doomsday — the day America gets into a nuclear shooting war.

No detail seems to have been overlooked. There’s even a designated “safe escape” door at the nuclear-warfighting headquarters near Omaha, Nebraska, through which the four-star commander would rush to a getaway plane moments before the first bomb hit.

Procedures are in place for ensuring U.S. nuclear weapons are ready for a presidential launch order in response to — or in anticipation of — a nuclear attack by North Korea or anyone else. There are backup procedures and backups for the backups.

And yet fundamental aspects of this nightmare sequence remain a mystery.

For example, what would happen if an American president ordered a nuclear strike, for whatever reason, and the four-star general at Strategic Command balked or refused, believing it to be illegal?

Robert Kehler, a retired general who once led that command, was asked this at a congressional hearing last week. His response: “You’d be in a very interesting constitutional situation.”

By interesting, he seemed to mean puzzling.

Brian McKeon, a senior policy adviser in the Pentagon during the Obama administration, said a president’s first recourse would be to tell the defense secretary to order the reluctant commander to execute the launch order.

“And then, if the commander still resisted,” McKeon said as rubbed his chin, “you either get a new secretary of defense or get a new commander.” The implication is that one way or another, the commander in chief would not be thwarted.

The current head of Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten, said Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada that he would refuse a launch order from a president if he believed that order to be illegal. Hyten also predicted that the president would then ask him for options that Hyten judged to be legal.

Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer and co-founder of the Global Zero group that advocates eliminating nuclear weapons, said the Kehler scenario misses a more important point: The Strategic Command chief might, in effect, be bypassed by the president.

A president can transmit his nuclear attack order directly to a Pentagon war room, Blair said. From there it would go to the men and women who would turn the launch keys.

The renewed attention on these questions reflects unease — justified or not — about President Donald Trump’s temperament and whether he would act impulsively in a crisis.

This past week’s Senate hearing was the first in Congress on presidential authority to use nuclear weapons since 1976, when a Democratic congressman from New York, Richard L. Ottinger, pushed for the U.S. to declare it would never initiate a nuclear war. Ottinger said he wanted to “eliminate the prospect that human ignorance and potential human failure in the use of nuclear materials, especially nuclear weapons, will lead to the destruction of civilization.”

Forty-one years later, the U.S. hasn’t ruled out first-strike nuclear options and is unlikely to do so during Trump’s tenure. This troubles experts who worry about a president with the sole — some say unchecked — authority to initiate nuclear war.

“We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said at the outset of last week’s hearing.

The committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he was not targeting Trump. But he, too, has publicly questioned whether Trump’s aggressive rhetoric toward North Korea and other countries could lead the U.S. into a world war. In the end, Corker’s hearing produced little impetus for legislation to alter the presidential authorities.

James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, saw politics at play.

“But I think it’s a genuinely important subject, and I think it’s one we should be debating irrespective of who the president is,” he said.

Acton said a president rightly has unchecked authority to use nuclear weapons in response to an actual or imminent nuclear attack. In his view, the president should otherwise be required to consult in advance with the secretaries of state and defense, and the attorney general, and get approval from two of the three before acting.

Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School, says changes of this sort would put a valuable check on the president and protect his nuclear authority from potential military insubordination.

Waxman and Richard Betts, director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, have a proposal: To order a nuclear first strike, the president would first have to get “certification” from the secretary of defense that the order is valid and authentic, and from the attorney general that it is legal.

These added safeguards wouldn’t risk delaying a response to an enemy attack in progress, Betts said. They would apply “only in situations where the United States is considering starting the nuclear war.”

Canada Said to Warn U.S. Businesses to Speak Up or Lose NAFTA

The Free Press WV

Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator is urging U.S. businesses to step up pressure on the Trump administration to save the trade deal, as successful talks increasingly hinge on the U.S. backing off its most controversial proposals.

Steve Verheul made the request on Sunday in Mexico City with about three dozen members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according an official briefed on Verheul’s remarks who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Negotiators are gathered in Mexico’s capital for the fifth round of discussions to upgrade the North American Free Trade Agreement that wrap up Tuesday.

Verheul previously warned the chamber to brace for life after NAFTA, and the business group has been raising the alarm by highlighting the U.S. economic cost of losing the trade pact. His warning is the latest sign that discussions are bogged down amid deep divides over contentious U.S. proposals, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s regular threats to walk away looming over talks.

Many American lawmakers have also been speaking out in support of NAFTA, and Canada and Mexico are holding out hope that domestic pressure will lead U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to back off controversial demands. Those include requiring cars to have 50 percent U.S. content, imposing a sunset clause on the deal, killing the Chapter 19 dispute panels and dismantling Canada’s dairy sector, which relies on a system of quotas and tariffs that Canadian officials argue prevents oversupply.

“It’s hard to see any breakthrough if the U.S. does not change its attitude and does not become much more realistic with respect to their ask,“ Yves Leduc, director of international trade for the Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby group, said in Mexico City on Monday.

“We regularly engage with stakeholders in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and we will continue to maintain open channels of communication,“ Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the the chamber declined to comment.

The Big Picture: Putin’s Plan Plays Out

The Free Press WV

Almost everyone agrees with our nation’s intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with our 2016 presidential election, even President Donald Trump, sometimes. But why would Putin want Trump to win?

Trump was enthusiastically supported in the government-run Russian press and, “An announcement by Foreign Affairs Committee member Vyacheslav Nikonov that Mr. Trump had triumphed was almost drowned out by clapping and cheering in the State Duma (the Russian ‘congress.’)” Here’s the quote attributed to Nikonov: “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton acknowledged her defeat in the U.S. presidential elections and just seconds ago, Trump began his speech as president-elect. I congratulate all of you on this.”

When I first started writing this column, I thought of all the “helpful” things Trump has done for Russia since his nomination:

  • He eliminated the Republican Party plank at the GOP convention calling for providing “lethal defense weapons” to the Ukrainian army.
  • He gutted the State Department, making the United States a weaker presence worldwide, slashing foreign intelligence, and stimulating a mass-exodus of seasoned, higher-level personnel.
  • He destabilized NATO, calling it “obsolete,” saying it should be “readjusted,” and publicly wavering on which members the U.S. would defend.
  • He promoted racial, religious, cultural and urban/rural divisions.
  • He denigrated by word and deed long-treasured American qualities and ideals like rule of law, egalitarianism, generosity, compassion, civility, tolerance, integrity and morality.

Researching this column, I discovered that Trump’s election tactics were (and are) eerily similar to a much grander Russian scheme, outlined in Aleksandr Dugin’s 1997 book, “Foundations of Geopolitics.” Written in the depths of the post-Soviet economic decline, this book laid out a plan to help Russia regain her lost world-leader status.

“There has probably not been another book published in Russia during the post-communist period which has exerted a comparable influence on Russian military, police, and statist foreign policy elites,” according to historian John Dunlop, of the Hoover Institute. Aleksandr Dugin is now considered a member of Putin’s inner circle.

“Foundations of Geopolitics” advises Russia to stay away from direct military confrontation in favor of political stealth and infiltration of Western institutions. It calls for Russian special services “to provoke all forms of instability and separatism within the borders of the United States,” to wit, “Introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.”

Putin’s trolls actively pushed both the far right and far left group messages.

“Promoting content that is divisive – that is the ultimate goal here,” said Lee Foster, manager of information operations analysis at FireEye Intelligence, one of the foremost cybersecurity firms in the world. “It’s the same in Europe, but the specific themes change. . . . There, one of the most prominent themes is migration and the refugee crisis.”

Among other things, the book suggests Russian annexation of Ukraine (partially done), promoting the exit of Britain from the European Union (done) and funding far right, nationalist, populist candidates everywhere to weaken ties with other countries. Just last week, the British newspaper, “The Sun,” ran the headline: “Russia used 150,000 fake Twitter accounts to rally support for Brexit in 48 hours leading up to referendum vote.”

For the past decade, Russia has directly and indirectly supported right-wing nationalists all over Europe. There are many examples, perhaps the most well-known being far-right, pro-Russian, anti-European Union candidate Marine La Pen, of France, who received more than $10 million from a Russian bank for her campaign.

Russian sabotage is real and ongoing. Welcome to today’s Cold War.

Mike Kirchubel

Trump Puts North Korea Back On State Sponsors Of Terrorism

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump on Monday announced that his administration has re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, a move aimed at increasing pressure on Pyongyang a decade after the George W. Bush administration removed the rogue nation from the list.

Trump made his decision public during a brief photo op at a Cabinet meeting, calling it “a very critical step” that “should’ve happened a long time ago.“ The president cited assassinations by dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime carried out on foreign soil, as well as the treatment of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in June days after he was released in a coma by the North after spending 17 months in captivity.

Trump vowed that Pyongyang will face further sanctions in the near future and that this will be the “highest level of sanctions by the time it’s finished.“ White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders amplified the message on Twitter.

“POTUS announced that the U.S. is again designating North Korea a state sponsor of terror,“ she tweeted.

The White House had signaled during Trump’s Asia trip this month that the president was likely to make the designation. The North spent 10 years on that list before being removed in 2008 by the Bush administration for meeting nuclear inspection requirements. Pyongyang later violated the agreement.

In a speech to the South Korean national assembly two weeks ago, Trump cited atrocities carried out by the Kim regime and called the North “a hell that no person deserves.“ Among other acts, Kim’s regime stands accused of carrying out the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, with a deadly nerve agent at a Malaysian airport in February.

Iran, Sudan and Syria also are on the list, which is administered by the State Department. According to that agency, sanctions for those nations on the list include “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.“

Last month, a bipartisan group of House members wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to add North Korea to the list, citing the deaths of Warmbier and Kim Jong Nam.

“Such acts are not isolated events, but part of a consistent pattern by the Kim regime,“ stated the letter, signed by Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the committee’s ranking Democrat, among others.

Michael Green, who served as senior Asia director at the National Security Council under Bush from 2001-2005, said the removal of the North from the terror-sponsor list was “very controversial” and turned out to be a “crappy deal” that Pyongyang quickly violated. He added that the Japanese government had lobbied the Bush administration not to remove the North in 2008 until Pyongyang brought resolution to Tokyo’s claims that the North had kidnapped at least 17 Japanese citizens in the 1970s.

During his visit to Tokyo two weeks ago, Trump met with families of the dozen Japanese abductees whose cases have not been resolved.

“Putting them back on the list is important symbolically as a demonstration of good faith with Japan,“ Green said of North Korea. “It also helps add spin on the ball with sanctions overall.“

U.S. Faces International Probe Over Afghanistan

The Free Press WV

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday formally requested authorization to investigate the U.S. military and CIA for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian jurist who has been the ICC’s chief prosecutor since 2012, confirmed earlier suspicions that the United States would be implicated in the probe. The decision marks the first time the ICC under Bensouda will investigate American forces and operatives.

In a statement, Bensouda clarified that alleged “war crimes by members of the United States armed forces” and “secret detention facilities in Afghanistan” used by the CIA justified the court’s investigation. Earlier this month, she had announced that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed” in Afghanistan but had declined to specify by whom.

On Monday, she named the U.S. armed forces and the CIA among a roster of probe targets that also included the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani network, as well as the Afghan National Security Forces.

“Furthermore, the Office has determined that there are no substantial reasons to believe that the opening of an investigation would not serve the interests of justice, taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of victims,“ Bensouda said in her statement.

The statement noted that the investigation will focus on the alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan after May 1, 2003, and on other alleged crimes with clear connections to the conflict in Afghanistan that were committed on the territories of other member states after July 1, 2002. In the case of the American targets, Bensouda said, the investigation would focus primarily on 2003 through 2004.

The ICC, established in 2002, does not have the authority to investigate crimes committed in Afghanistan before those dates, the statement said.

The court’s jurisdiction is bound to investigating crimes in the territories of member states, although the U.N. Security Council can authorize extensions of those probes into other nonmember states. Earlier this month, Burundi - in an apparent attempt to avoid prosecution - became the first country ever to withdraw from the ICC, but the court ultimately authorized an investigation relating to alleged crimes the government had committed anyway.

The United States is one of few nations that never formally submitted to the ICC, which was established in 2002 as the world’s highest legal authority for the prosecution of war crimes and human rights abuses. But U.S. citizens can still be charged for relevant crimes they commit in other member states.

Afghanistan has been a member state since the court’s inception.

No official deadline was given for the judges to respond to Bensouda’s request.

Pope Devotes Mass to Poor, Calls Indifference A ‘Great Sin’

The Free Press WV

Celebrating Mass with poor people in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis on Sunday denounced those who dismiss poverty as “not my business” and defined indifference to the needy as a “great sin.”

Later, the pontiff expressed particular concern for those impoverished by war.

After Mass, the pope lunched with some 1,500 poor people from Italy, Poland, France and elsewhere as the Catholic Church marked its first World Day of the Poor, an event created by Francis to draw attention to those living on the margins of society.

“To do no wrong is not enough,” Francis declared in his homily.

Not using our lives to help others is a “great sin where the poor are concerned,” Francis said. “Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, ‘That doesn’t concern me. It’s not my business, it’s society’s problem.’”

It appeared to be a lunch the pope enjoyed immensely.

Francis laughed when a guest presented him with a scarf in the red-and-yellow colors of local soccer team Roma, which beat hometown rival Lazio a day earlier. He beamed as waiters served the poor, seated at his long table, plates filled with gnocchetti sardi, a shell-shaped pasta, topped with tomato sauce.

Elbow-to-elbow with his guests, Francis tucked a cloth napkin into his white cassock and ate with gusto.

A second course of veal and greens, a dessert of tiramisu and cups of coffee to top the meal off were also on the menu.

Other guests dined at round tables, covered with white cloths and decorated with a potted cyclamen, in the hall where the pope on Wednesdays holds his public audience.

Francis elaborated on the indifference theme

“It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it,” he said. “God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.”

The poor, those who the world views as having “little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven. They are our ‘passport to paradise,’” Francis said.

Palestinian President: U.S. Threat to Close PLO’s Washington Office ‘Dangerous’ For Peace

The Free Press WV

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was “deeply surprised” by a U.S. threat to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s office in Washington unless it enters direct peace negotiations with Israel.

He said a U.S. decision not to recertify the office of the PLO, the main Palestinian negotiating body, was an “unprecedented step” in the history of U.S.-Palestinian relations and has “dangerous consequences” for peace.

A State Department official said that the decision was taken due to “certain statements made by Palestinian leaders about the ICC,“ referring to the International Criminal Court. The office could be reopened if after 90 days the president determines the Palestinians have entered into “direct, meaningful negotiations with Israel.“

Under conditions imposed by Congress, the PLO cannot operate a Washington office if it calls the ICC to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in September, Abbas called for ICC investigations into Israeli aggression.

President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt have been tasked with laying the groundwork for the “deal of the century” in an effort to bring lasting peace to the region.

A closure of the PLO office should in no way be seen as a signal that the United States is backing off those efforts, the State Department official said.

“We are hopeful that this closure will be short-lived,“ the official added.

If the office is closed, the PLO will put on hold all communications with the U.S. administration, the organization’s secretary general Saeb Erekat said. He said the PLO had been informed of the move in a letter.

“This is very unfortunate and unacceptable,“ he said, blaming pressure being exerted on the U.S. administration by the Israeli government, an accusation the Israelis pushed back on.

“This is a matter of U.S. law,“ said a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. “We respect the decision and look forward to continuing to work with the U.S. to advance peace and security in the region.“

North Korea vs. Cuba

The Free Press WV

In the midst of increasing international isolation, North Korea is sending its foreign minister to an old ally: Cuba. In a short message released Friday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced that Ri Yong Ho and his delegation departed on their journey to Havana.

The move comes after a number of North Korean trading partners announced that they would be suspending trade with North Korea. Pyongyang’s seventh-largest trading partner, Singapore, announced that it would halt its trade ties with the country Thursday. In September, the Philippines – North Korea’s fifth-largest trading partner – said it would do the same.

In purely economic terms, Cuba is probably of negligible importance to North Korea compared to these nations: Official figures show that Havana fails to crack the top 10 trading partners and it certainly falls far behind China, North Korea’s most important economic ally.

But at this point, Pyongyang may be hoping to shore up international partners wherever it can.

“Looking at the vast number of countries that have announced severed ties with North Korea over the past few weeks, it makes a great deal of sense for the regime to attempt to reinforce the bonds that exist in whatever ways possible,“ said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and co-editor of North Korean Economy Watch, in an email.

Notably, the move also comes at a time of increasing tension between Cuba and the United States after the Obama administration attempt at normalization of relations with Havana from 2014 onward. “Considering that the country’s own détente with the U.S. appears to have stalled,“ Katzeff Silberstein said, referring to Cuba, “North Korea might (reasonably) see some particular momentum.“

For Havana and Pyongyang, warm relations are nothing new. Cuba and North Korea came to be allies during the early days of the Cold War – Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary who played a key role in Cuba’s revolution, visited North Korea in 1960 and praised Kim Il Sung’s regime as a model for Cuba to follow. Even after the Cold War ended, the two nations, now both isolated internationally, kept up their ties: Cuba also remains one of the few countries in the world to not have diplomatic relations with South Korea, for example.

The two nations were willing to flout sanctions to work together economically. In July 2013, a North Korea-flagged vessel was seized by Panamanian authorities carrying suspected missile-system components hidden under bags of sugar upon its return from Cuba. A report released the next year by a United Nations panel of experts concluded that the shipment had violated sanctions placed on North Korea, though Cuban entities were not sanctioned in the aftermath despite protests from the United States.

Crucially, the thawing of ties with Washington didn’t seem to damage the relationship significantly: In December 2016, a North Korean delegation to the funeral of Cuban leader Fidel Castro emphasized that the two nations should develop their relations “in all spheres” – a comment echoed by Raúl Castro, according to state media reports at the time.

Since President Donald Trump took office in January, there have been signs that the thaw with Cuba is over. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced tough restrictions on U.S. travel and trade with Cuba, a move that largely followed through on Trump’s campaign promise to “terminate” the Obama-era normalization with Cuba.

Any sign of warming relations between Cuba and North Korea will probably also draw the attention of the Trump administration, which has used the United States’ economic clout to push a variety of nations to stop their illicit economic relationship with Pyongyang. Although Cuba’s official economic ties with North Korea remain small, some experts have suggested that these figures should be taken with a grain of salt.

“A key element of the Trump administration’s sanctions effort is isolating North Korea,“ said Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former U.S. Treasury Department official. “The U.S. should warn Cuba about the dangers of a relationship with North Korea.“

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post.

Pope Upset That Health Care Is Too Tied To People’s Finances

The Free Press WV

Pope Francis is upset that increasingly only the privileged can afford sophisticated medical treatments and is urging lawmakers to ensure that health care laws protect the “common good.”

In a message Thursday to a medical association meeting at the Vatican, Francis expressed dismay at what he called a “systematic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.”

He said in wealthier countries, health care access risks being more dependent on people’s money than on the actual need for treatment.

Without citing any countries, Francis said health care law needs a “broad and comprehensive view of what most effectively promotes the common good” in each situation, including looking out for society’s most vulnerable people.

U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have been debating how to overhaul the nation’s health insurance legislation.

No NAFTA, No Problem, One Mexican Town Says

The Free Press WV

Josué Vidales considers his business a NAFTA success story. The 43-year-old father of five founded his engineering firm on the eve of the world economic crisis to capitalize on the slew of factories being built in this burgeoning industrial city some 250 miles north of Mexico City.

The business stumbled in the beginning, but subsequently blossomed and grew to 25 employees as manufacturers poured into San Luis Potosí and hired his firm to design and install electrical substations.

Now, with NAFTA free trade treaty with the United States and Canada being renegotiated and President Trump threatening to tear it up, Vidales admits to some disquiet. But like many of the new NAFTA-created business owners here, he thinks his business and the town could survive the agreement’s possible demise.

“Of course we’re concerned. It could impact us hard, especially if tariffs increase or they block access to the U.S. market,“ Vidales said, sipping a Coca-Cola diluted with mineral water in a popular chain of cafes. “We’ll get through this and much more quickly than before because we have much more know-how and much more experience.“

Such optimism is common in San Luis Potosí, a colonial city and capital of the state with the same name that still charms with its plazas and ornate churches - and sells itself as a free trade success story where manufacturing replaced mining and farming and young people stay at home to work rather than migrating to America.

As Mexico considers the once unthinkable, life post-NAFTA, places like San Luis Potosí believe they have learned what they needed from the treaty and are ready to take on the world economy without it. But two decades of the treaty affected the country very unevenly and what works for San Luis Potosi may not apply elsewhere.

For instance, in the past five years, the city saw economic growth of 5 percent and attracted $6 billion in foreign investment. Yet overall, during the period of NAFTA from 1994 to 2016 growth across the country has averaged an anemic 1.2 percent as gains in the industrialized north were canceled by stagnation in the rural south.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has said it “won’t be the end of the world” if NAFTA ended - a line repeated by many in San Luis Potosí.

“Mexico is bigger than NAFTA and there is life after NAFTA,“ Videgaray told reporters back in October. “Of course we think this is the best economic situation for the country, with a good renegotiation. But if that’s not achieved, we will have to be ready.“

Many in Mexico seem reluctant to speculate on a post-NAFTA future - beyond the perpetual chatter of pursuing new markets for Mexican exports and expressing hopes the ongoing negotiations will prove fruitful.

“I want to put myself on the side of being optimistic since the objective of negotiating a trade agreement with any country should always be a win for everyone,“ said Governor Juan Manuel Carreras López of San Luis Potosí. “I also understand that agreements can be revised and modernized.“

The optimism about what Mexico’s post-NAFTA future might look like is not unanimous, however. In the short term, the currency would likely depreciate, raising prices locally. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean foresees the Mexican economy contracting 1.9 percent without NAFTA. It’s also not clear if Mexico would still be as attractive to investors without the agreement.

In a report on Mexico released Monday, the International Monetary Fund also expressed misgivings for the economy if the treaty, noting that “substantial impediments to bilateral trade could have a significant impact on financial markets, investment and growth.“

“Investment flows would slow down quite a bit - it would depend a lot on the sector and region,“ said Jonathan Heath, former chief economist for Latin America at HSBC. “If you look at private investment, it’s basically been flat for the last year and a half. A good explanation for that is uncertainty surrounding NAFTA.“

Others wonder aloud if Mexico’s business class has the stomach to stick out such uncertainty or if they will pull their money out of the country - as happened previously in times of economic turbulence.

“Within five minutes [of NAFTA ending] they will have transferred all their capital abroad. They will have bet everything against the peso. And they will have put a stop to every investment project for the next two years,“ said Federico Estévez, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “The Mexican economy will be emptied of all resources.“

San Luis Potosí, along with the outlying Bajío region to the north and west of Mexico City, was once one of the poorest regions in the country, known for little more than peyote, prickly pears and silver mining.

It boomed under NAFTA, leveraging its ideal geography - sitting roughly equidistant between the Mexico City and the Monterrey and offering easy access to both coasts and the U.S. border - existing infrastructure and an abundance of low-cost labor. In the mid-2000s, the auto sector arrived, starting with General Motors plant.

With the Trump and the rumblings over NAFTA, there have been setbacks, including Ford pulling the plug on a planned manufacturing plant in January. That was balanced out, however, by German automaker BMW saying it would continue to build its own San Luis Potosí plant, scheduled to open in 2019.

If the Ford withdrawal offered a glimpse of life after NAFTA, state officials said they’re not worried. As Carreras pointed out, this year saw the pull out of Ford and Trump’s call to renegotiate the treaty and yet “we’ve had the best job creation numbers that we’ve ever had.“

This is the model Mexican business executives are hoping for: if U.S. investors and markets recede, other countries will take their place.

With Mexico having signed so many free trade agreements with other countries, analysts say manufacturing in Mexico still makes sense for many automotive companies, even without NAFTA. Potential automotive tariffs would run about 2.5 percent, as outlined under World Trade Organization rules.

“There are currently companies, mostly European and Asian, which are very interested in San Luis Potosí,“ said Héctor Soto, director of the San Luis Potosí Automotive Cluster, an industry promotion organization.

Soto projects the number of suppliers investing in the state to reach 330 by 2020, up from the 230 firms operating today and 40 when GM arrived in 2006. Even U.S. firms are still showing interest, according to Soto, who hosted a delegation from Michigan visiting San Luis Potosí in October.

“Regardless of what happens with NAFTA,“ Soto said, “supply chains are so integrated that they’re difficult to break.“

Vidales, the entrepreneur, grew up number 11 out of 16 children in a pious Catholic family. Among other projects, he founded a custom manufacturing business, Evolt de México, with a younger brother, Otoniel.

“We’ve adopted the best business practices” of the firms investing in San Luis Potosí, Vidales said, looking every bit the businessman-engineer in a charcoal suit with a pen clipped between the buttons of his patterned shirt.

Otoniel, 36, expanded on the sentiment. “It will only be a transition. We’re ready now. We know how do things,“ he said about the possible end of NAFTA. “We’re very Americanized.“

On the busy Highway 57 - the so called NAFTA Highway connecting Mexico City with the U.S. border - workers admit to mixed opinions about the treaty that changed their lives. At an industrial park near the highway, people say it has brought jobs, but wages remain low.

“The price of everything goes up, but our salaries stay the same,“ said Oscar Ruiz, 33, a truck driver for a box factory, who earns roughly $85 a week plus overtime. “It’s a noticeable change here (since NAFTA was signed) but our personal economic situations continue to be the same. I have to work an extra 40 hours a week to make ends meet.“

But there is still worry about what could happen with the end of NAFTA, which is still viewed positively by some 60 percent of the population in Mexico.

Carlos del Pozo, 41, once washed dishes in the Dallas area, but he returned to San Luis Potosí, studied systems engineering and now earns $1,400 per month with an auto parts maker.

“I’m scared of being poor again,“ he admitted as he tried to sell a tricked out Volkswagen Jetta at a Sunday market for used cars where he moonlights. “It’s going to be a crisis.“

Anti-Corruption Campaign In Saudi Brings Hope To Businessmen

The Free Press WVLebanon-based businessmen who lost enterprises through dealings with members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and others in the kingdom are closely watching a new campaign led by the powerful crown prince targeting officials, princes and tycoons in the oil-rich kingdom, hoping it will help them win back what they lost over the years.

The campaign, which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says is aimed at cracking down on corruption in the kingdom, has been met with skepticism by many. With dozens of powerful princes, business leaders and government officials in custody, the move has provoked speculation the crackdown is more about consolidating power than curbing corruption. Others speculate the move amounts to a shake-down of wealthy players for their assets as the crown prince tries to implement sensitive economic reforms in the face of lower oil prices.

Either way, many in the kingdom welcome efforts to fight rampant corruption and abuse of power, and many outside it hope the move will encourage people to invest in the kingdom without fear.

Since the first week of November, some 201 people have been taken into custody by Saudi authorities in a sweep that investigators say has uncovered at least $100 billion in corruption. The detainees include Cabinet ministers, members of the royal family and the owners of three TV networks that are among the largest in the Middle East.

The crackdown that began on Nov. 4 initially targeted 11 princes, 38 officials, military officers as well as business leaders. An estimated 1,700 individual bank accounts have been frozen.

Saudi critics and experts have called the unprecedented purge of top princes and businessmen by the crown prince, also known by his initials MBS, a bold and risky move aimed at consolidating power as he keeps an eye on the throne, sidelining potential rivals and dismantling alliances built with other branches of the royal family.

Pierre Daher, who founded the first private TV station in Lebanon in 1985 and turned it into one of the top media outlets in the Arab world, has been locked in court cases with detained Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, since 2011. The prince, whose maternal grandfather Riad Solh was once Lebanon’s prime minister and also holds Lebanese citizenship, has investments that include Twitter, Apple, Citigroup and the Four Seasons hotel chain and was once a significant shareholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, but sold much of those shares in 2015.

Their court battles are over Lebanon’s leading LBC and the affiliated Production and Acquisition Company, widely known as PAC, which filed for liquidation in 2012. Some 400 PAC employees lost their jobs and are still waiting for Prince Alwaleed to compensate them.

Prince Alwaleed and Daher, now chairman and CEO of LBC, were once allies when the prince pumped money into LBC TV before the two split over several issues and Daher was removed from his job as head of PAC. Prince Alwaleed ended up taking over the LBC SAT and PAC while Daher took LBC.

“The disgraceful behavior of Alwaleed by making the company (PAC) bankrupt fraudulently while it was not bankrupt and had assets. PAC was able to continue normally but he mechanically made up bankruptcy,” said Daher in his LBC office in the posh town of Adma north of Beirut.

Several cases between the two are still ongoing in countries including Lebanon, Britain and the Cayman Islands. Daher says that he is suing Prince Alwaleed for more than $100 million and is optimistic he will win.

Lebanese media outlets reported this month that two Beirut hotels owned by Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding are for sale. The Four Seasons and Mövenpick Hotel are among Beirut’s most luxurious hotels and are located in two of the capital’s most posh neighborhoods.

“If the hotels are not in the person’s name, not in the name of the defendant himself in person, you cannot garnish them since they belong to a company,” said Paul Morcos, legal expert and founder and owner of Justicia Consulting Law firm in Beirut.

Morcos added that the prosecution that is done in Saudi Arabia does not directly affect a prosecution taking place in Lebanon.

Attempts to reach a representative of Prince Alwaleed at Kingdom Holding were not immediately successful.

Another person who lost millions of dollars in the kingdom as a result of alleged corruption is Lebanon-based U.S. citizen Yahya Lotfi Khader who for more than 20 years ran petrochemical businesses along with his two partners in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The Syria-born, 57-year-old businessman said he left the kingdom two years ago after he became the victim of interference by officials who worked in the office of a once powerful prince, Saoud bin Nayef, the brother of the former crown prince who was removed from his post earlier this year. Khader put forward documents that proves they have lost tens of millions of dollars in cases that he says were manipulated by powerful people in the kingdom.

“There is widespread corruption from princes to ministers to judges to lawyers to businessmen,” Khader said, speaking in his posh apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the north Beirut suburb of Dbayeh. “Regrettably there are people who are taking advantage of the wealth and powers of the kingdom and are taking it in the wrong direction.”

Khader added that the first step by MBS is to fight corruption and people in the kingdom have been waiting for an “awakening against corruption.” Khader said “Saudi Arabia has all the capabilities to become one of the most important countries in the world If we can fight corruption and it will not be an easy mission but we are very optimistic about what happened.”

Khader has sent documents listing all the injustice they were subjected to in the kingdom to the office of King Salman and MBS hoping that it could help them return to the kingdom and get back their money that are worth tens of millions of dollars.

“What is happening in Saudi Arabia is a game changer. It is turning the country on the political, economic, social and religious levels,” said Daher of LBC.

He added: “Today there is a new Saudi Arabia that is totally different from what it used to be but it is still early to judge it.”

China’s Support on North Korea

The Free Press WVThe U.S. and its allies in Asia shouldn’t assume China will fully cooperate with the campaign to curtail North Korea’s nuclear arms program, a top priority of President Donald Trump, according to the annual report of a bipartisan congressional panel.

Despite concerns over North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile programs, China remains the country’s largest trading partner and differs with the U.S. over the best way to handle Kim Jong Un’s reclusive regime, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in the report published Wednesday.

“The United States and the international community should keep their expectations low,“ according to the report, “given China’s lackluster record of previous sanctions enforcement and continued sanctions violations by Chinese companies exporting dual-use items to North Korea.“

China faces a dilemma enforcing sanctions “in wanting to see some reform in the North Korean economy and not wanting to see a collapse,“ panel commissioner Larry Wortzel told reporters before the report’s release. “We think their cooperation and exercise of sanctions will be fairly limited” by “what they see as their own national interest.“

Created by Congress in 2000, the commission has reported on China’s economic and military rise, usually in critical assessments accompanied by recommendations for counter-actions such as trade sanctions.

This year, the panel flagged what it said are increasing efforts by Chinese companies to invest in sensitive or strategic U.S. industries in ways that avoids close oversight, such as by creating shell companies based outside China. That’s making it harder for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, to review the threat they could pose to national security, the report said.

Chinese companies “are becoming more sophisticated in their attempts to circumvent” CFIUS reviews and other U.S. investment regulations, the commission said.

Investments from China increasingly are targeting information communications technology, agriculture, and biotechnology, it said, while “investments in nonstrategic sectors like entertainment, real estate and hospitality are declining amid Chinese Communist Party efforts to limit capital outflows and reduce corporate debt.“

The report hits at two key issues—security and trade—emphasized by Trump on his 12-day trip through Asia, which he said he was “very proud” of even though few big deals were announced.

“It’s been a great trip,“ Trump said Tuesday aboard Air Force One as he headed home. “It’s also been really good, in terms of North Korea and getting everybody together.“

Trump used both confrontational and conciliatory language about North Korea on his Asia tour. On Nov. 11, he said it was “certainly a possibility” that he could become friends with Kim. But days after calling on Kim to enter peaceful negotiations, Trump spoke before South Korea’s parliament and listed a litany of alleged human-rights abuses against the North Korean leader, calling him a “deranged tyrant.“

The president has spent much of his first year in office trying to cajole Beijing to crack down more on trade with Pyongyang, saying China could “easily” and “quickly” fix the North Korean nuclear problem. In a Nov. 11 tweet, Trump said China’s President Xi Jinping “has stated that he is upping the sanctions against #NoKo. Said he wants them to denuclearize. Progress is being made.“

But according to trade data, the results have been mixed. Chinese-North Korean commerce slumped in September after a second round of United Nations-approved sanctions, but total trade rose 3.7 percent in the first nine months of the year to about $4.03 billion.

There’s little doubt that China “could strangle North Korea” since it accounts for 90 percent of the regime’s trade last year, “but I don’t think they will,“ Wortzel said.

Panel Chairman Carolyn Bartholomew told reporters that “over the years we’ve watched China make commitments to enforce sanctions and then not quite live up to the commitment” so “I, at least, am skeptical about additional commitment that it makes.“

The U.S. panel relies largely on public sources and information gathered in trips to the region for its review of the status of China’s economic, political and military developments. The latest volume also outlines China’s progress in developing advanced technology such as high-powered lasers and other anti-satellite weapons as well as hypersonic munitions designed to fly five times the speed of sound.

Among other topics highlighted in the report:

- North Korea’s missile arsenal is increasingly likely to survive an initial attack on the country because of its mobility, which “increases the difficulty for opposing forces to monitor and target them,“ and solid-fuel propulsion that shortens the time needed to prepare for launch.

- Despite North Korea’s advanced nuclear and missile programs, U.S. allies South Korea and Japan “have not substantially increased their bilateral defense cooperation.“

- Some Chinese companies operate with little oversight under China’s opaque financial system, leaving U.S. investors exposed to exploitative and fraudulent schemes perpetrated by China-based issuers.

- China’s efforts to develop a more consumption-driven economy should further boost U.S. services trade, which recorded a surplus of $38 billion last year, up from $438 million in 2006.

For YOU...By YOU

West Virginia

Worldwide

National

Politics

International

Arts & Entertainment

Worldwide

Putin: U.S. hurts itself with invented Trump collusion case

The Free Press WV Russian President Vladimir Putin scoffed Thursday at allegations of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, saying the reports have been “invented” by Trump’s foes and have hurt the U.S. political system.

Pilot traces virtual Christmas tree in German test flight

The Free Press WV A pilot has traced a virtual Christmas tree over Germany on a test flight with an Airbus A380.

White House says it’s still seeking Mideast deal

The Free Press WVThe Latest on the gathering of Islamic nations seeking a united stance against the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ...

Can Kim Jong Un control the weather?

The Free Press WVNorth Korea’s state-run media says so.

China poses new stealth threat

The Free Press WVWashington is waking up to the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds.

Anonymous Bidder Buys German Village for Under $165K

The Free Press WVThe village of Alwine boasts 20 residents and a dozen or so buildings

Hezbollah rally attracts thousands as Trump’s Jerusalem fallout continues

The Free Press WVThousands of Hezbollah supporters joined a fiery rally in Beirut on Monday as the movement’s leader urged Palestinians to rise up after President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

In Putin’s heartland, apathy and disappointment rule

The Free Press WVThree months ahead of Russia’s presidential election, apathy and disappointment pervade incumbent Vladimir Putin’s heartland.

Japan Buying Missiles That Can Strike North Korea Bases

The Free Press WVBut defense minister says it will still mainly rely on U.S. protection

N. Korea Says War Is Now Unavoidable

The Free Press WV Pyongyang threatens U.S. with ‘mighty nuclear force’

Pope: Deliver Us From Bad Translation of Lord’s Prayer

The Free Press WV Francis wants to reword ‘lead us not into temptation’ line

Angry worshippers lash out against Trump across Muslim world

The Free Press WVLarge crowds of worshippers across the Muslim world staged anti-U.S. marches, some stomping on posters of Donald Trump or burning American flags in the largest outpouring of anger yet at the U.S. president’s recognition of bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians protest Trump move on Jerusalem

The Free Press WVHundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops across the West Bank while demonstrators in Gaza burned posters of President Donald Trump over his widely denounced decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Emperor’s Memoir, Written at MacArthur’s Request, to Be Sold

The Free Press WVJapanese Emperor Hirohito’s recollections could fetch as much as $150K

Trump flouts warnings, declares Jerusalem Israel’s capital

The Free Press WVDefying dire, worldwide warnings, President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with decades of U.S. and international policy and formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Financial|Business

Sports

Living

Opinions

Outdoors

Technology & Science

Obituaries

Features

Worldwide

Events & Announcements

Reader's Comments

Worldwide

Readers' Recent Comments

The whole child concept is admirable, but with GCHS grads being behind in proficiency for academic subjects we need to make changes to drastically improve learning to enable our kids to compete in the highly competitive modern world.

Our being the 52nd worse off among 55 WV counties for college remediation rates is undeniable proof.

Administrators must determine legitimate causes of our bottom ranking for use in improving learning instead of applying usual low payoff tinkering to be passed off as progress.

By B. K. Brooks on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

That’s the #### dems new ploy, they can’t win on policy so they charge sexual harassment.

By The Silent Majority on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Why was there no outrage like this when Billy Boy was doing his deed in the White House? and other places?

Oh, I forgot.  He was the media’s boy?

By HOW COME NOW ? on 12.14.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Wanna bet that in green counties when results sag there is no hesitancy to make administrative changes when needed? In Gilmer County the approach has been to hide facts and to manufacture rosy ones to report to citizens.

By Moore on 12.11.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is basically the process for an improvement plan. A school board specifies student achievement standards and it assigns a superintendent to work with central office staff and school administrators to produce a comprehensive plan for making needed changes. After putting a plan in place results are closely monitored by a school board while holding a superintendent personally accountable for achieving the standards.

By School Board Member In A Top Performing County on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Did I miss the County Commission Agenda for the December meeting?  The GFP site is displaying a little differently and I can’t seem to find it.  Do they still meet on First and Third Fridays??

By Searching on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The no excuse rate for Gilmer County is 59% and there are only three other WV counties worse off. This alarming information flags dire need for the County’s school board to do its job by implementing an improvement plan.

By Gilmer Students Ripped Off on 12.08.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“We’re going to see a sea change in American agriculture as the next generation gets on the land,“

Yeah, right.  That will last about as long as it takes to discover exactly how hard farming is, and the amount of work it takes to make even a minimal living.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 11.30.2017

From the entry: 'A Growing Number Of Young Americans Are Leaving Desk Jobs To Farm'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I always thought a Harvard education was something special.  Well, I guess it is.  Just a week ago they had ‘sex week’.  One of the course offerings was analsex101.  That’s right.  Google it.  Plenty of coverage. True story.

By Harvard 'taint what it used to be? on 11.23.2017

From the entry: 'Feds Threaten To Sue Harvard Over Asian-American Admissions'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is nothing new.  It has been happening for years and no attempt to stop it.  Just quiet it down when word leaks out.  The court system thumbs their noses and laughs at ‘their hillbillies’.

Remember the hub-bub about $100,000.00 bathrooms in the Capitol building a few months ago?

Think they have them all remodeled so those whom you elected can krap in style the next legislative session?  lol

By Web on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The justices are part of the aristocracy. Does anybody think that they care what the peons think?

By Skip Beyer on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Why are Gilmer’s voters kept in the dark about activities of the two LSICs in the County? No published agendas before meetings, no published meeting minutes, and plans with details for school improvements are not disclosed. Violation of WV’s open meeting laws? To top it off memberships of LSIC’s and who selected the individuals are kept secret from voters.

By Gilmer Voter on 11.16.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

LSIC plans are short on specifics for measurable academic improvements to be achieved. That way no matter what happens extraordinary successes can be proclaimed. The strategy is designed to make meaningful accountability impossible for school system administrators.

By More Of Same For WV Schools on 11.15.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

A food pantry opens at Marshall University?

For students I can understand.
But its also for faculty and staff?

Really now?  Their salaries are that poor they need access to a food pantry?

Times area really tough in West Virginia.  Really are.

By Tough Times at Marshall University on 11.14.2017

From the entry: 'West Virginia News'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

LSIC=Local School Improvement Council. Each WV school has one. Google to learn what each one is supposed to do to improve a school. Ask for plans for your schools.

By POGO on 11.13.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What is this “LSIC” commenter speaks about?
Who and what is that all about?

By reader on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Fellow West Virginian’s.  What is being seen here is Paine’s return to ‘power’ and the continued 20 years charade by the WVBOE.

They spend your tax dollars.  They do their best to cover their failed efforts.  They cheat our children of a good education. 

They play (think manipulate) with the grading system every couple years, making it impossible to follow students upward or downward progressions.

Don’t expect any good, any progress, any improvement to happen in West Virginia.  It’s not in the cards.  Well, that is not in the ‘administrators’.

By 20 years of WVBOE 'playing' school on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

All high schools in WV have ACT Profile Reports for each graduating class.

The only performance information typically cited in school districts is average ACT scores for graduating classes.

If you can get copies of Reports for your high schools read them to independently evaluate testing results for career and college readiness, science, technology engineering and math (STEM), and other categories.

Chances are that your local administrators gloated that average ACT scores for graduating classes are commendable to give your high schools passing marks, but other testing outcomes in the Reports may show otherwise.

It is doubtful if LSIC members for your high schools know about the Reports to be grounds for demanding academic improvement plans. Check Reports for high schools in your school district to make up your own minds.

By WVDOE Fact Checker on 11.11.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Policy 2510 is an admission by the West Virginia Board of Education of their own failure.

Dumb down the standards in order that students can get a passing grade.

You grand pooh-bahs in Charleston BOE should be ashamed of yourselves!  But you have no shame. Obviously so.

Steve Paine, leading the failure of education in West Virginia.

By # 2510 policy--WVBOE ADMITS OWN FAILURE on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

With a deal like this—WHY—are we selling road bonds and—WHY—were all the motor vehicle fees INCREASED on West Virginia’s citizens?  WHY ! ?

Thanks for nothing Jim Justice and the WV legislators.

By WEST VIRGINIA TAXPAYER on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'WV Signes $84 Billion Shale Gas Deal with China Energy'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The Rosie Bell will be a nice addition to the Park !

A thank you to Donna Waddell and her leadership and the FRN for making the Park happen !

By Thank America's Rosie's ! on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'What This Bell Means to Gilmer County'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Aren’t they supposed to have agendas AND minutes for each and every meeting, by law?  They put it right there on the agendas that there were None. And months’ go by without even Seeing an Agenda.  It’s a citizen’s right to go in and ask to see them ALL.  Someone needs to look into this.  Especially with all the speculation that goes on around legal issues in the county!

By GilmerCountyCommission? on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The grade 7 spike in math in comparison to lowered performances in higher grades begs the question about reasons. What is being done to ensure that math skills will not drop by graduation time? Has anyone looked at adverse effects of block scheduling and other factors?

By Answers Needed on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We’ll.  It’s a step forward to see the Commission AGENDA - but what about the minutes?  The last two agendas have said “ Approve County Commission Minutes-None”      Aren’t there supposed to legally be minutes for the public to read?????  This makes NO sense unless things are going on that the Commission doesn’t want the public to know.  Obviously.  SHOW THE MINUTES Jean Butcher, do your job!

By 304 More Issues on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This posting is very informative and it documents what can be done with innovative approaches to teaching math. For too long we were fed the party line that all was well in our schools for math and everything else. That myth prevailed because facts were hidden to hold down the County’s demands for accountability. Hats are off to Kelly Barr and Traci DeWall.

During intervention it was commonly known that school board members made repeated requests for all kinds of student progress information, but it was kept from them. That era has ended and the County’s school board is expected to focus on its top priority responsibility that is to continually improve student learning in our schools. Our kids can perform if they are given the chance.

By Gilmer County Parents on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Gilmer look at this Did You Know. If you look at the State’s data on Zoom Dashboard to review changes in mastery of math and reading for the GCHS’s 11th grade for the 2011 and 2017 testing years it is clear the you have a problem with your math program. In 2011 the math pass rate was 36.92 compared to 37.29% in 2017. Progress with reading was truly commendable. The pass rate went from 26.98 in 2011 to 64.41% in 2017. Why the lack of progress for math? We know that your school board members are trying to get information about plans for improvements for math and science, but is full disclosure of details any better than it was under intervention? Let us know.

By B. Cummings on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lots to learn kids. By the way,  How’s the Commission coming along with the September meeting minutes?

By 304 on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'GSC Criminal Justice Students Take Part in Scenario-Based Training with RJA'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Most of America lives in denial of toll the government approved ‘life-style’ that is shortening everyone’s lives.

We are living in an era where the government has been lobbied (think bought) in approval of many, many things that are destructive to life.

This article shows the result of a cumulative toll effect that vaccines, pesticides, GMO foods, chemtrails, and other poisons are taking on the American population.

This is likely the globalists dream of “depopulation” coming true.  Enjoy what time you, your children, and grandchildren have left.

By Your Government Taking Care of You on 10.25.2017

From the entry: 'Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Sicker In-Between'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I don’t care Who or What he killed.  He shouldn’t be doing it in a West Virginia Police hat.  It sends a bad message to do it with a Police hat on.

By Hunter on 10.24.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Your outrage is misplaced Hunter. He killed Bambi, who will no longer will frolic through the forest.

By Democrats Against Deer Hunting on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It doesn’t seem like Gilmer County Law Officials seem to care about the murders in the area. In my opinion. We don’t hear anything from the law on Any of the pertinent local situations.  Why IS that?  We know MUCH more about national news that we know about the goings on in Gilmer. Crimes, drug busts, investigations and Answers to those investigations.  Why don’t we Ever hear any news from the Sheriff’s Department??  Still wondering why Deputy Wheeler was reassigned to school patrol officer and who took over his murder investigative duties.  Can’t get anyone to pick up the phone or an answer when I call.  Maybe someone on the Gilmer Free Press can shed some light?

By Where is the Law? on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation.“

WRONG - Diversity in populations has been proven to be, not helpful to society, but harmful.  Immigrant groups who refuse to assimilate are a problem not a benefit, and will remain a problem until they do assimilate.

It’s understood that not all Muslims are terrorists, but for practical purposes all terrorists are Muslims.  And please spare me the Timothy McVey arguments.  McVey and his ilk were loners.  Muslim terrorists are part of an organized movement.

I think almost all immigration should cease until the present immigrant population can be dealt with, through assimilation or otherwise.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 10.22.2017

From the entry: 'Trump’s Muslim Bans Impoverish Us All'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Will the persons involved in Poor Fred’s murder ever be held accountable?  Ever?  Yet they walk among us every day?

Did not realize it has been 7 years since poor ol’ Willard met his fate?  There is plenty dirt kicked around there to cover the wrong doings too?

By Poor Fred is Dead on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Hold on Gub’ner Justiss….
The juery stil’ be outs on yer barrering’ game….

Ways to er’ly ta be countin’ hens an roosters….

By no chickens yet... on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Wanna get votes for the school levy? Simply get truth out about where the County stands with low reading, math, and science scores and publicize a rational plan for fixing problems.

By Truth Will Win Levy Votes on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I get it that it’s a pose for the camera, but should he Really be wearing a Police hat for hunting?

By Hunter on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Nice to see the Gilmer County Commission finally reveal their meeting minutes after long lapses of no information.  Can’t help but wonder if this was posted specifically because of the topic -  Sheriff Gerwig being assigned to another estate case before closing out others. Memories of Willard F. Cottrill today. d. 10/20/10 R.I.P.  The minutes should be interesting.  Let freedom ring.

By MC on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

From WV Zoom Dash Board. GCES 6th grade student proficiency rate=20% for math and 31% for reading. Gilmer County demands a K-12 improvement plan everyone can understand and promote!!! We have had enough of the everything is just fine claims.

By School Kids Are Cheated on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is a common occurrence for school administrators to carefully select one small piece of information to purposely give a school a rosy performance rating for student learning and to hide unflattering information from an LSIC and a local BOE. The way to prevent the censorship is for superintendents to routinely provide access to all testing results so performance evaluations for a school can be based on a full set of facts.

By WVDOE Employee For Complete Transparency on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The community has observed that there is an improved way of doing business by the GCBOE and the new superintendent after the State pulled out. One problem to solve after the State’s neglect for six years of intervention is low student success at the GCHS for math and science. There is documentation on the ZoomWV Dashboard kept by the WV Education Department. The pass rate for GCHS students for M & S is in the 30s. What is the HS’s LSIC group doing to improve those scores? Does it have a detailed improvement plan for the school and if it does it should be disclosed. M and S under achievement underscores why it is important to know what the County’s LSICs are doing to improve our schools academically.

By Gilmer Business Executive on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Should not have to get LSIC membership from principals. The information should be published for the public record for all interested citizens including taxpayers to know. Gilmer’s secrecy has been a long time tool used to undermine accountability and it must stop!

By Stop Secrecy! on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Is it true the GC Board of Education sold this to 4H for one dollar?  I should hope so!

This community has always supported our children and their 4H works.

Very good of our Board of Education to do this!
Thank all you board members!
Doing what you were elected to do!
Take care of the kids and community!

By WONDERFULL USE OF TRAILER on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We 4-H supporters wish to express our appreciation to Mrs. Hurley and the other board of Education members with the 100% vote to hold and sell this trailer for 4-H use/utilization.  This new office space for the very nominal fee is much appreciated.

Kudos to Hurley for staying in contact with the past 4-H director and making sure all was well and agenda requirements were met.  We had heard we were not going to get the trailer.  Thanks goodness the fake news was totally wrong.

Moving out of the old infirmary building will be a real blessing.  The group has learned a valuable lesson.

Do not take the word of ANY others about what the Board of Ed tries to do for each and every community in Gilmer County.  Go to the source.

By Thanks Mz. Hurley & Board of Ed ! on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

smile It’s no secret that the Gilmer Board of Ed sets up a public meeting with the LSIC of each school presenting every year agenda and all. Always have.
 
If you want to know who’s on it or when it meets call your school Principal.  That’s who sets up this internal governance committee per code and will probably be glad to talk with you about it.

By Just Takes a Phone Call on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Why the secrecy in not disclosing names of those on the County’s LSIC councils and when they meet with published agendas and official meeting minutes?

By Transparency Suffering on 10.16.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This information is generally unknown in Gilmer County. Google WVDOE LSIC and chick on the item for frequently asked questions about local school improvement councils. Details covers how individuals are selected to serve on councils and what councils are supposed to do to continually improve our schools with keen focus on student learning.

By How Gilmer's LSICs Should Work on 10.16.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I love the picture of Kenny because that is a true reflection of him.  I never saw him without a smile on his face.  Even when we would speak on the phone sharing our cancer struggles, Kenny would be laughing.  He always brightened my day when times were hard for me.  Linda, God bless you for what wonderful care you took of Kenny.  When we spoke he was always eager to tell me all you had done for him & how loved & cared about that made him feel.  He always said he could never have made it without you.  God bless you & May God bring you the peace, comfort, & happiness Kenny would want you to have.  My prayers are with you.

By Sue Holvey on 10.15.2017

From the entry: 'Kenneth Jackson Foglesong'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Still keeping up on Gilmer County after ending of your intervention. Been reading your test score information too. Your Local School Improvement Councils are responsible for defining specific approaches for improving student performances. The WV Statute covering roles of councils is 18-5a-2. The Department of Eduction has details on its web site for how councils are selected, their responsibilities, and how elected school boards fit in. Too often the problem has been that detailed results for student performance testing were withheld from councils and their members do not know that there are student performance problems in critical need of correcting. The solution is to ensure that all council members are fully advised of testing results and the full range of their official responsibilities.

By WVDOE Observer on 10.14.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Look at the WVDOE’s Zoom Dashboard. The State’s official results for 2017 testing are alarming. Eleventh graders tested out to be 37% proficient in math compared to 36% in science for 10th graders. Our kids can do much better than this. When will an improvement plan for the high school be developed for application with meaningful built in accountability?

By Fix GCHS' Science And Math Problems on 10.14.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Don’t believe all the Liberal propaganda being printed as facts….fake news from the left is an epidemic…if we cared so much about pollution and respiratory illnesses, we’d have outlawed cigarettes decades ago…don’t kill West Virginia’s economy over a few objectors.

By Truth?? on 10.13.2017

From the entry: 'Health Consequences from Carbon Pollution Rollback'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My child graduated from the GCHS with a high GPA and an ACT exceeding 30. Sounded good at first. At WVU the child was deficient in science and math and dual credit classes taken at the HS didn’t measure up. What is the GCBOE doing to make academic improvements at the HS and when will parents and taxpayers in general be informed of the details?

By GCHS Science and Math Programs Suffering on 10.12.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Here’s a prediction for you:

Half the money will be wasted on environmental impact statements, feasibility studies and the like.

Of the remaining half, most will go to wages and salaries, and damned few roads or bridges will be repaired.

Anyone want to dispute that?

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 10.10.2017

From the entry: 'Politics Aside, Voters Say, They Want WV’s Roads Fixed'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What a scoop!  One county gets 18% of pie!

Mon County wins!  Everyone else looses.

By nepotism will rule the day! on 10.09.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice Issues Statement on Passage of Roads to Prosperity Bond Referendum'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There have been repeated pleas for a detailed accounting for all the County’s education money spent on facilities and everything associated with them during State control. Why has nothing been done to verify how public money was spent? With use of modern computer records it should be relatively simple to do detailed accounting. Without one and the continuing secrecy lid suspicions are worsened. Didn’t the County have a seizable surplus before intervention and now we face going into the red?

By Where Did Gilmer's School Money Go? on 10.07.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Positive press out of GSC is always good for the community and the College.

What is not good for the community and GSC is the ongoing telephone scam GSC has nothing to do with.

The phone will ring, there is a GSC entry on caller ID, and a 304-462 number is given. If you answer thinking that it is a legitimate GSC call you get surprised.

The caller, usually with a strange accent, will make a pitch for money and it is obviously a scam.

It is common for the caller to try to convince a person that a grand child or another relative is in bad trouble and thousands of dollars are needed quickly for a lawyer or some other expense.

When the 304 number is called back there is nothing there. It would help if GSC officials would alert the public to the cruel scam and to involve high level law enforcement to stop the nuisance calls.

By Fed Up Glenville Resident on 10.05.2017

From the entry: 'GSC History Book Authors to be on hand for Signing'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So sorry.  You and your family have my thoughts and prayers. Butch, you may not remember me but you did such a wonderful job at my farm in Lewis County, dozing, ditching, etc. etc.  a few years ago.  I so appreciated your work. God Bless you and your family during this difficult time.

By Betty Woofter on 10.03.2017

From the entry: 'Florence Marie Hall'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

West Virginia has 55 counties.

Mon County will get almost 20% of the highway money.  Actually about 1/8th.

Does that seem lop-sided to anyone? 

One county gets one-fifth.  Who gets the ‘payola’ ?

By watcher on 10.01.2017

From the entry: 'Latest Numbers on Road Bond Vote'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Nice letter and thought Senator Manchin.

Maybe now a letter to Milan corp, requesting Heather Bresch requesting a epi-pen price roll back?

By How About it Mr. Manchin? on 09.29.2017

From the entry: 'Manchin Letter Urges for Patient Access to Non-Opioid Painkillers'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

That is the standard operating procedure for the Charleston Board of Ed and their mismanagement style. 

Is it any wonder the state has financial issues?

By truth seeker's answer on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Apparently the 5 year, GC school news embargo, by the West Virginia Board of Education has been lifted ?  Hope so.

By will we get more news? on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Regular Meeting Minutes'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We want investigative accounting for all the County’s school money spent on facilities during intervention. We are entitled to details for planning money, money paid out to architects, all money sent on Leading Creek, everything spent on the Arbuckle land plan and Cedar Creek, what was spent to get us at the new GCES, and a complete list for all money paid out for no bid work from start to where we are today.

By Citizens Deserve Facts on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Can someone explain to me why in Gilmer County schools projects were given to certain companies without any bid? Even when these companies kept screwing up, they kept getting paid for fixing their own screw ups? A good example is our supposed to be brand new elementary school. I hear these all the time. What is the real truth?

By truth seeker on 09.27.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Where are all the Obama and Clinton haters now? Why aren’t they comment about the state of the country and the world now?

By wondering on 09.27.2017

From the entry: 'National News'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Most likely this road bond deal, will make millionaires of elected officials, families, friends.

The WVDOT has a proven track record on spending.  One not to brag about?

The ‘assisted’ suicide of the former DOT manager has been hushed too?

By reader6 on 09.25.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The posting about Boone is a wake up call for the Governor’s road vote coming up.

WV has a bad reputation for graft and corruption when public funds are involved. With the amount of money involved for the road building program with bond money there would be vast opportunities for waste and mismanagement.

Just look at wasted money in County school systems under WVDOE intervention while local control was eliminated. 

Governor Justice should inform voters what he would do to ensure that the new road money would be spent wisely with iron clad accountability for every penny spent.

By Money To Burn on 09.25.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is an epidemic of misuse of County school funds in WV. We read about it all the time. That is what happens when finances are purposely packaged in ways to make it too complicated for board members to track and proper local level oversight cannot occur. This problem is one for Governor to solve.

By Boone Is Not Unique on 09.25.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The same is being asked of the commission.  Meeting minutes and videos used to be available until fall of last year.  Now we hardly ever see even the agenda, let alone ever seeing the follow up minutes.  WHY DID THIS INFORMATION STOP?? Is someone hiding something because it surely would seem so.  We need to know what’s going on in this town and the Free Press is one of the few ways we can do it.  PLEASE bring back the public meetings videos!!

By Watcher on 09.11.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Commission Meeting - 09.01.17'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Appreciation is given to the City for posting meeting minutes on the GFP to be an example of good government by keeping citizens informed.

Why can’t the same be done with school board meeting minutes? Everyone knows that during intervention what got on agendas was censored and what happened during meetings was kept to a minimum to avoid information getting into the public record.

With the State out of here a request is made to the school board to exercise its authority to ensure that citizens are kept informed.

By Why Continuing Secrecy? on 09.11.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Commission Meeting - 09.01.17'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Interesting.  Deputy Clerk is the same one who tells people that come with an issue - that they should “go to church” if they’re angry This discrimination issue didn’t just happen once.  This is Gilmer County.

By Fact on 09.07.2017

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: WV Same-Sex Couple'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

With the uproar about the excess levy passing again, it does not have a chance unless it is proven that a much better job will be done in managing the County’s school money than occurred during intervention.

For an example, why was new playground equipment purchased for the new GCES when perfectly good equipment at abandoned schools could have been used?

By Concerned Voter on 09.07.2017

From the entry: 'Paine Says Educators ‘Gave Up’ Because of A-F Grading System'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So nice to read of this hometown hero story!

So many stories like this have likely been lost to time.

By GFP reader on 09.06.2017

From the entry: 'Rosie the Riveter Ruby Coberly from Glenville Tells Her Story'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So sorry to hear of the death of Karol. I was to Ill to come to funeral, but. My thoughts and prayers was with the family. Classmate 1956.

By Nancy (Rose) Westfall on 09.03.2017

From the entry: 'Leota Karol Hatmaker'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Read the Sept 1st Gazette article about four WV school systems with major noteworthy gains in student proficiency in mastering subjects.

The Counties were Doddridge, Mingo, Taylor and Wayne. The proficiency increases were related to factors including curriculum changes, improved planning targeted to achieving specific goals,and use of modern tracking procedures to monitor results.

If other counties can do it Gilmer can too with the smallest school system in WV. For starters our administrators should learn what the four counties did and to adapt the practices to our school system.

It was insulting for some officials to claim that Gilmer’s citizens do not understand what is going on in our school system, they do not care, and nothing can be done about it anyway because of our poverty.

Citizens know more than they are given credit for and if the excess levy gains a chance of passing changes for the better must be demonstrated to voters.

By No More Excuses Accepted on 09.01.2017

From the entry: 'Paine Says Educators ‘Gave Up’ Because of A-F Grading System'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This is why Gilmer County must go on its own way by setting high standards, deciding on ways to achieve them for all children regardless of their pedigrees and family net worth. Part of it must include real time, unambiguous progress reports to establish accountability for school system administrators and the County’s school board.

A-F was a hoax. A WV school could get failing grades for student learning to end up with an overall A or B. Any wonder that we were stuck at 50th place with that brand of State cover-up?

By Gilmer--Go It Alone on 08.31.2017

From the entry: 'Paine Says Educators ‘Gave Up’ Because of A-F Grading System'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Yes, and in another year or two the grading system will change again.

And again and again and again.

The WV Board of Ed has played this gave for years, in order to ‘look’ accountable, but to escape any long term accountability.  Just keep changing the game.

By ~the people know~ on 08.31.2017

From the entry: 'Paine Says Educators ‘Gave Up’ Because of A-F Grading System'.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved