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►  The top three most valuable brands in the world are American technology companies

American tech products are used all over the world, and the latest estimates from global brand consulting firm Interbrand show that the top three most valuable brands in the world are American tech companies. Not surprisingly, industry pioneer Apple has managed to rise to the the top of that heap. As we can see in this chart from Statista, technology companies in general have taken over the world, usurping all but three more traditional retailers.

Although it comes in eighth, Facebook is the biggest winner of the year, as it saw the biggest year-on-year growth of anyone on the list. According to Interbrand, it grew 48% while Apple only grew 3%. Not surprisingly, Amazon also saw a considerable amount of growth with 29% YoY.

The Free Press WV


►  Interpol approves Palestinian membership; new blow to Israel

International police agency Interpol voted Wednesday to include Palestine as a member state, in a new boost to Palestinian efforts for international recognition and influence amid long-stalled negotiations with Israel for full statehood.

Interpol announced the inclusion of the “State of Palestine” as well as the Solomon Islands on Twitter and its website Wednesday after a vote by its general assembly in Beijing.

With the new votes, Interpol will have 192 member countries. Interpol didn’t immediately announce how many members supported Palestinian membership.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki hailed the vote as a “victory for law enforcement” and “voice of confidence in the capacity of law enforcement in Palestine.” He promised to uphold Palestinian commitments to combating crime and strengthening the rule of law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office didn’t immediately comment on the vote, which comes after Palestinians won recognition in other world bodies. Opponents say recognizing Palestine in international organizations undermines negotiations with Israel for full statehood.

Zeev Elkin, Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection and a close associate of Netanyahu, said in retaliation for the Palestinians joining Interpol, Israel should cancel gestures granted to the Palestinians, including work and entry permits, and special travel permits for Palestinian leaders.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called it “another failure” for Netanyahu.

The U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012. UNESCO approved it as a full member in 2011, prompting the U.S. and Israel to suspend funding of the U.N. cultural agency.

The Palestinian prime minister applied for Interpol membership in 2015, and submitted a formal letter this July promising not to use the organization “for any political, military, racial or religious interventions or activities” and promising to cooperate with Interpol activities, according to minutes of the Interpol meeting.

The approval vote requires the Palestinians to pay membership dues worth 0.03 percent of the Interpol budget.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, is an international clearing house for arrest warrants and police cooperation against cross-border terrorism, trafficking and other crime.


►  Iraq’s Kurds say 92% voted in favor of independence

The Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq was approved by more than 92 percent of voters, officials said Wednesday, as Iraq’s prime minister vowed to keep his country united without resorting to the use of force.

Even with the strong support, the non-binding vote is unlikely to lead to formal independence, but it has escalated long-running tensions with Baghdad, which has moved to block flights in and out of the Kurds’ autonomous region. Iraq and its neighbors, along with virtually the entire international community, are opposed to any redrawing of the map.

Hendrin Mohammed, the head of the Kurdish region’s election commission, announced the official results at a press conference, saying the referendum passed with 92.73 percent support and turnout of more than 72 percent.

The vote was held across the autonomous Kurdish region’s three provinces as well as in some disputed territories controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.

Mohammed said the counting of votes was complete and that the results would be considered final once they are certified by the Kurdish region’s department of justice.

The commission did not comment on turnout in the disputed territories, which could serve as an indicator of how many people in those areas prefer Kurdish rule. Mohammed told The Associated Press those numbers would be released by local authorities, without elaborating.

Iraq’s Arab-dominated parliament has given Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the mandate to deploy troops in the disputed territories, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, but al-Abadi said Wednesday he doesn’t want a “fight between the Iraqi citizens.”

At a meeting with lawmakers, he instead vowed to “enforce the rule of the federal authority in the Kurdish region with the power of the constitution.”

Parliament has demanded that Baghdad refrain from taking part in any dialogue with the Kurds until the results of Monday’s vote are cancelled. It also called on the government to bring those behind the vote, including Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani, to justice. The demands are non-binding.

Al-Abadi has ordered the Kurdish region to hand over control of its airports to federal authorities by Friday, threatening a flight ban if they refuse. Iraq’s Transport Ministry has ordered international airlines to halt service to Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, and Sulaimaniyah, its second city, beginning Friday evening.

Middle East Airlines, the flagship carrier of Lebanon, and EgyptAir have announced that they will comply, cancelling all flights after Friday. Low-cost airline FlyDubai says its flights to Irbil are in question from Saturday on.

Turkey has warned its citizens that flight service to the Kurdish region will be suspended as of 6:00 p.m. Friday (1500 GMT). A statement posted on the Turkish Consulate’s website in Irbil said flights by Turkish Airlines, AtlasGlobal and Pegasus “won’t be possible” after Friday evening. It added that authorities were working to increase flights until then.

The transport minister for Iraq’s Kurdish region said Wednesday the region’s international airports have not violated any laws that would warrant their closure.

Mawlood Bawa Murad told reporters his ministry is ready to negotiate with Baghdad “if they want to implement the law and show that Iraq has one air space.”

He added that the flight ban would affect, “one way or another, the military aviation that operates from Irbil international airport,” which is used for the campaign against the Islamic State group.


►  Mexicans displaced by quake: ‘This is like a horror story’

Inside the Francisco Kino Elementary School a miniature city has emerged at the site of a shelter for people who lost their homes in last week’s deadly earthquake.

On the school’s open-air courtyard, doctors test blood pressure and glucose levels at a makeshift triage center set up on a plastic table. Nearby, children get haircuts while stressed-out parents receive massages.

But frustration is growing inside the gym, where families camp out on mattresses alongside piles of new, donated belongings. Days without easy access to a shower and the loss of simple liberties like deciding when to turn out a light to go to asleep have become aggravating.

They want to know: How long will they be stuck here?

“This is like a horror story,” said Ana Maria Castaneda, 49, who is living at the shelter with five relatives.

More than 12,000 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the magnitude 7.1 quake have spent at least one night in a shelter since the quake, the Mexican government says.

Officials pledged Tuesday to give families chased from their homes a monthly payment of 3,000 pesos — the equivalent of about $170 — to find a new place to live for a total of three months. But an average one-bedroom apartment outside Mexico City’s center can easily run twice as much.

“We will directly support families with resources and materials to repair damages or build a new home,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a televised address Tuesday night.

Government employees fanned out Tuesday urging the 25 families living at the Francisco Kino school to visit a nearby park where officials have set up areas for victims to sign up for benefits, but the suggestion was met with skepticism and resistance. If they went to the plaza, some people worried, they might lose their coveted spots at the shelter. Some 500 families were forced from nearby apartment buildings after one collapsed and the school had space only for two dozen.

“Sorry to interrupt you,” one elderly woman sitting on a donated mattress said at a meeting with a visiting representative from Mexico City’s Women’s Institute. “They tell us if we leave here, we’ll lose our shelter. But if we don’t go there, we might miss out on government benefits.”

“After the fright of the quake, why are they scaring us with these threats?” she asked.

The residents were urged to go one-by-one to sign up for government assistance, leaving family members to watch over their belongings.

According to Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, inspectors have examined damage at 10,903 properties so far and 83 percent of the structures are safe to live in. That means about 1,800 have been marked uninhabitable.

In all, some 43 shelters across the capital have tended to 24,000 people since the September 19 quake, though many came just for a plate of food before finding a place to stay with friends or family.

It’s unclear how long the shelters will be operating. Volunteers and government employees stationed at the Francisco Kino school — a shelter run largely by neighborhood residents — said it would stay open for the foreseeable future.

“As long as is necessary,” said Elizabeth Garcia, a government worker inspecting the site Tuesday.

The mountain-like piles of donated water bottles and medical supplies along with the growing level of organized services give the impression of a population that is starting to settle in. Rows of toothbrushes and toothpaste rest on sinks outside a children’s bathroom. A room that once held school materials has been fashioned into a space for medical donations. A cardboard box holds mounds of antibiotics. On a desk are Styrofoam cups holding injectable medicines like anti-inflammatories that are labeled with a black marker.

Dr. Misael Dominguez, an attending physician, said doctors have “practically everything we require.”

“We have seen a lot of high blood pressure and sugar levels from the stress,” he added.

At that moment, a doctor was poking one of Roberto Ramirez’s fingers with a needle to draw blood and test his glucose levels. Ramirez, a 33-year-old musician and computer programmer, is a diabetic and lives in an apartment that has been deemed too dangerous to inhabit. He was away from home when the quake struck and wasn’t able to retrieve his glucose testing kit.

He said he has been trying to take better care of his health since the quake, saying, “I value things more.”

The result came back high: 259.

To the left of the entrance are signs offering psychological services. Many of those sheltering at the school have arrived with the quake’s trauma still weighing heavily on their minds.

Florencia Cortes, 37, was pulled from the rubble of her apartment building along with her 20-month-old son, Jonatan. In order to get her son out, she had to swing him toward the building’s plumber, who happened to be outside. He caught hold of the boy by his foot.

Jonatan used to follow his mother around everywhere. Now she says he stick by his father, who wasn’t home during the quake.

“He’s not the same,” Cortes said. “Maybe he thinks I threw him and don’t love him.”

Many of the shelter residents harbor a deep mistrust of their government to set things right. While government workers occasionally come in, for the most part officials have been absent, they say. Some are vowing to stay until they’re given a new place to call home.

“The government has the last word and no one knows anything about the government here,” said Angelina Usuna, 81.

Night can bring the hardest hours. A lucky few have donated mattresses, but most are sleeping on uncomfortable foam mats. They get a few hours of sleep at best. Wary of sharing a collective space, no one feels entitled to tell someone else to be quiet or turn out a light.

In fact, it’s impossible to make the gym completely dark. As part of the shelter’s safety protocol, one light must be kept on in case another tremor strikes.

The United States’ Next Ground War In The Middle East Might Erupt Without Warning

6 Trigger Points:
How the Conflict Between the United States and Iran Is Fast Escalating Toward War

The Free Press WV

The long-simmering conflict between the United States and Iran is fast escalating toward war. The battlefield is the desert expanse of eastern Syria where civil war has raged for the last five years. Tehran wants to keep U.S. forces out of the area, while Washington wants to use the region to wage war against Iran’s ally, Syria.

After 15 years of unsuccessful war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is pursuing a policy of “regime change“ in Iran that might lead to a third U.S. ground war in the Middle East since 2001.

Restraint is breaking down. While President Obama resisted U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, Trump has approved it. While Obama pursued dialog with Iran, Trump has embraced the new Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who laid down his country’s new, harsher line in April. ‘We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia,“ he said, “but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.“

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, while resisting White House pressure for rapid escalation, has given battlefield commanders more leeway to attack Iranian-backed forces. The result is a series of unprecedented incidents that have Washington experts asking “Is Trump preparing for a conflict with Iran?“

  • On May 18, the United States attacked a convoy of Iranian-backed militiamen in southern Syria, reportedly killing eight fighters.
  • On June 07, ISIS struck inside Iran for the first time, with a pair of suicide attacks that killed 18 people. One top Iranian official said the United States, by supporting Saudi Arabia, effectively supports ISIS.
  • On June 18, Iran fired ballistic missiles at ISIS positions in eastern Syria, in retaliation for the two terror attacks. It was the first time Iran has used such heavy weaponry on the Syrian battlefield.
  • That same day U.S. forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, the first time the U.S. has attacked the air force of Iran’s ally.

As the United States and Iran compete for battlefield advantages, here are six places their struggle might erupt into war.


1. Raqqa

After ISIS is defeated the Syrians, backed by Iran, want to reestablish the authority of the President Bashar Assad’s regime throughout the area. The U.S.-backed forces want to pivot from the fight against ISIS to take on the Syria government directlyRaqqa is  where these ambitions will collide.


2.
 Eastern Syria

As the sway of ISIS shrinks, Assad and his allies have launched an operation to “take control of the eastern desert in Syria,” which borders on Iraq. They want to drive out the Sunni extremists, but also prevent other rivals—namely the United States—from filling the void.

Iran fears that that U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces will seize northern Syria while other U.S.-backed rebels take control of the rest of the Iraqi border.

Iran wants to deny the United States and its allies a sanctuary, while the U.S. military seeks freedom to operate in the area. Both sides hope to benefit from the changing status quo in eastern Syria to their advantage. Only one can prevail.


3. Unfriendly skies

American, Iranian, Syrian, Russian, and Turkish air forces are all active in the airspace over Syria—and all are becoming less tolerant of the others.

When the U.S. shot down a Syrian jet last week, Russia warned it would target all foreign aircraft west of the Euphrates River. When the Iranians sent drones over U.S.-controlled territory, the United States shot down two of them.

The conflict is escalating vertically, as well as horizontally.


4. Missiles

Iran compensates for its weak army and air force with a potent ballistic missile force that the United States regards as a threat to Israel and the region. The U.S. Congress just voted to increase sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program.

Iran’s decision to use the missiles in eastern Syria was more than a message to ISIS, said Iranian Gen. Ramazan Sharif in a television interview.

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,“ Sharif said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.“

If the United States is threatening Iran with regime change, and Iran uses missiles when it feels most threatened, then missile warfare is more likely.


5. Hostages 

Americans of a certain age will never forget that the Iranians took 52 Americans hostages in 1979 and held them for more than a year. Another hostage situation would inflame American public opinion and be used to justify escalation.

When the Iranian navy detained 10 U.S. sailors whose patrol boats strayed into Iranian waters in January 2016, the sailors were released within 24 hours. Secretary of State John Kerry used his working relationship with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to secure their freedom.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no such communication channel with the Iranians, and no interest in having one. If such an incident occurred again, opened-ended escalation is much more likely than quick resolution.


6. Special Forces

Both Iran and the United States have deployed elite military forces to the Syrian battlefield.

More than 500 U.S. Special Operations forces are advising and training anti-Assad forces in Syria. An equally big contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, under the command of legendary general Qasem Soleimani, are advising and fighting with pro-Assad forces.

In a crisis, military and civilian commanders on both sides are less likely to back down, compromise or negotiate if their most prestigious forces are fighting and dying. 

Ali Vaez, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

~~  Jefferson Morley ~~

Roger Stone Admits To Communicating With Alleged DNC Hacker

Roger Stone, the Richard Nixon dirty trickster and a longtime confidant of Donald Trump, revealed in an interview Thursday with the conservative Washington Times that he had contact with Guccifer 2.0, the alleged persona involved with the campaign hacks targeting Democrats. The Smoking Gun first revealed on March 08 about the communications between Stone and the purported Democratic National Committee hacker.

It has also been widely reported that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for Russian intelligence, and top U.S. intelligence agencies expressed “high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona” in their “cyber operations.“

Stone described his exchange with the Guccifer 2.0 persona as “completely innocuous and perfunctory” and insisted that he “had no contacts or communications with the Russian State, Russian Intelligence or anyone fronting for them or acting as intermediaries for them.“

He had already admitted to being in contact with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, the group which published the hacked emails from Democratic officials fed by Russian intelligence, and predicted the leak of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails two months before they were released.

WikiLeaks published emails from Podesta’s Gmail account immediately after the Washington Post and other outlets posted video of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. Just days before Podesta’s emails were released, Stone tweeted that Assange is set to release more hacked material:

Stone’s admission is just one more piece of evidence that figures in Trump’s network had ties with Russian operatives during the campaign.

Naturally, Stone just three weeks ago said he had “absolutely” no ties with anyone connected to Russia.

Principles for Progressives to Follow on Trump’s Ties to Russia

Putin’s an oligarch. So is Trump.

Putin runs a kleptocracy. So does Trump.

Both Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson have done business in Russia.

So why is money the one aspect of the Russia scandal people seem to talk about the least? Perhaps because it’s the one area the U.S. intelligence community avoided when it accused Russia of helping Trump win the election.

The Russia story we’ve been hearing raised the intelligence community’s popularity among Democrats and offered a convenient distraction from other national security stories. While many people were fixated on it, for example, this New York Times story by Charlie Savage was largely overlooked:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections … far more officials will be searching through raw data.

Here are 11 principles progressives can follow when they hear about (or talk about) Trump and Russia.

The Free Press WV


1. Don’t get ahead of the facts.

I don’t know yet whether Russia’s government interfered in the U.S. presidential election or not. Neither do you.

The recent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) bears that organization’s impressive seal. The eagle represents American sovereignty, we’re told, while the arrows represent war and the olive branch represents peace. But the report itself is highly politicized and woefully short on evidence.

That’s why Americans should support a thorough and nonpartisan investigation into Russia’s possible role in the election. Reps. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell have proposed an independent commission. It’s hard to imagine why anyone, regardless of their politics or preconceptions, wouldn’t support that idea.

In the meantime, Democrats may want to hit the pause button before getting too far ahead of the known facts. When people place partisanship above informed discourse, things can get very ugly very fast.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, wrote recently about what he called “the complex infrastructure that Russia built to infect public discourse with false or stolen information.” It “isn’t going anywhere,” Mook wrote, and “can be unleashed at any time, on any issue, domestic or international.”

But the link Mook provides doesn’t describe anything of the kind. It goes to a Buzzfeed article headlined How Teens in the Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.”

Macedonia isn’t part of Russia. And the teens in question are private entrepreneurs, not government operatives.


2. Don’t Putin-bait.

Mook lauds “vigilance” from social media companies, then suggests that covert Russian interference could lead to a lack of military support for breakaway Baltic States.

Do Democrats really want to mislead readers, or suggest that reluctance to engage in armed conflict is the sign of a secret fifth column?

In the immediate aftermath of the election, MSNBC cable TV host and political commentator Joy Reid dismissed Green Party candidate Jill Stein as an untrustworthy “Putinite.

Stein’s offense? She once attended an RT social event.


3. Don’t spread inaccurate or poorly sourced news.

A Clinton campaign official incorrectly said that some of the WikiLeaks emails were forged. That claim was repeated by Reid and several other prominent figures. Another inaccurate story in the Washington Post claimed that Russians had hacked into the U.S. power grid through a Vermont utility’s computer system. (The Post later retracted the report.) And a post-election poll showed that 50 percent of Hillary Clinton voters wrongly believed that Russians had hacked American voting machines.

MTV News correspondent Jamil Smith tweeted that one of Trump’s compliments for Vladimir Putin was “borderline treasonous.” But Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason quite clearly. It requires a state of war. Was Trump’s comment disturbing? Yes. Treasonous? No.

Do Democrats really want to start charging their political opponents with treason?

Meanwhile, the same commentators have overlooked stories that challenge the prevailing narrative. For example, few of them remarked on it when Trump-appointed UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions” and declared that sanctions against Russia would stay in place.


4. Don’t believe everything you’re told.

There are a number of unanswered questions, challenges and technical flaws regarding reports that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee.

The DNI report says that 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russians, acting under Putin’s direction, worked to help Trump win the election. But that claim is an “assessment” — which, in intelligence parlance, means it is an opinion. And some of those agencies  like Coast Guard Intelligence, the Energy Department’s intelligence branch, and the mapping experts at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — probably rely on the CIA and NSA for information and analysis about Russia.

Furthermore, all 17 have a dotted-line relationship to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who manages their budgets and therefore wields considerable influence over them.

Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who once described the young Putin as an “aspiring thug” and is no fan of Donald Trump, dismissed the report as unconvincing. And the official who signed it was James Clapper, who lied to Congress under oath on at least one occasion.

(Clapper said “No, sir” when asked if intelligence services gathered “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans, an answer he later said was “clearly erroneous.” A number of lawmakers think Clapper should face criminal prosecution.)


5. Be wary of labels slapped on media outlets.

That wouldn’t matter if the report itself was solid, but it isn’t. It’s a surprisingly slipshod piece of work that devolves in places into a thinly disguised attack on the American left, using Russia’s RT network as a springboard for condemning coverage of the Occupy movement, fracking, and “Wall Street greed.”

Those claims are undercut by the fact that RT has been heavily critical of the Republican Party for years. Its most visible political commentators are personalities like Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann who have worked for progressive media outlets.

In a related story, The Washington Post recently promoted a badly executed attack piece from an anonymous group called “PropOrNot” that used shoddy methodology to condemn legitimate progressive websites like Counterpunch and Truthout as Russian propaganda outlets.


6. Don’t be hyperpartisan — or hypocritical — regarding national security.

Recently, Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after a series of well-timed leaks showed that he had apparently concealed a conversation with the Russian Ambassador from Vice President Mike Pence.

Flynn was a horrible person, and his bigotry toward Islam would have made us less safe. But unanswered questions remain: Did Flynn break the law? If so, shouldn’t he be prosecuted? Have the leakers held back any information that might have helped him? Why, as Bloomberg national security columnist Eli Lake notes, were so many national security precedents broken in Flynn’s case? You can’t celebrate the leaks that brought Flynn down without also supporting Edward Snowden, who also performed an important public service.

Flynn’s phone call was not the only story to be leaked by anonymous sources. As Amanda Taub and Max Fisher recently observed in The New York Times, a “wave of leaks from government officials” has “drawn comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as ‘deep states,’ undermine and coerce elected governments.”

Edward Snowden was a whistleblower. Taub and Fisher are describing something very different: the selective use of government power against individuals and political movements.


7. Whatever you call it, recognize that the “deep state” is not your friend.

The phrase “deep state” has now entered the national conversation. Taub and Fisher maintain that the federal government’s subterranean apparatus has “not quite” reached the levels of those in Egypt or Pakistan, adding:

“But the echoes are real — and disturbing.”

Like past intelligence moves against the leaders of those nations, the DNI report and the leaks look like political attacks on a president.

“Yes,” some people are probably thinking, “but the president is Trump and we need to stop him.”

Here’s the problem: The network of U.S. government relationships, which the Times considers “not quite” a deep state, is dangerous. Although it includes some good people, it has been trying to crush the American progressive movement for generations with secret surveillance and covert intervention.

That network also includes many of the national security officials and neoconservative thinkers who lied to the American people and led us into the disastrous Iraq War. And it includes the defense contractors who will get even richer if we remain in a state of permanent conflict with foreign nations like Russia.

But if the phrase “deep state” makes you uncomfortable, you can use the one Dwight D. Eisenhower coined at the close of his presidency: the military-industrial complex.


8. Don’t trade long-term harm for short-term political gain.

That’s why it’s shortsighted for Democratic commentators to make comments like this one, from Talking Points Memo founder and blogger Josh Marshall: “Let’s hope there’s a deep state, and if there is that they have their #### together.”

That’s why it was misguided (in a likable sort of way) when a famous Buddhist teacher told me recently, “I’ve been reading the news and I think I love the intelligence agencies.”

Don’t. They have their own agenda, and it ain’t peace and love. If you’re glad Michael Flynn is gone, push for meaningful whistleblower protections so that the Flynn leakers — or the next Snowden — can’t be targeted by the government for exposing unlawful behavior.

Democrats should also note that the prevailing Russia narrative targets Trump, and Trump alone, while ignoring his party. That, too, may not be an accident. Republicans has been rigging American elections for years, more blatantly than Russia’s ever done. Dems should be wary of a tactic that wounds Trump while elevating the rest of the militarily hawkish GOP — a party that shares Trump and Putin’s ideology of unfettered predatory capitalism and the “deep state’s” predilection for war.


9. Remember, you could be next.

The current leak campaign against Trump offers a glimpse into the playbook that might be used against a future progressive president, if she or he dares to move against the military-industrial complex.

Recent Democratic presidents, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, supported many of the national security state’s ambitious military and budgetary ventures. But a new wave of progressives lacks that enthusiasm.

In a famous debate exchange during last year’s Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton mentioned her close relationship with Republican Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who she had earlier called “a friend.”

“I’m proud to say Henry Kissinger is not my friend,” Sanders said in response.

What if progressives someday help elect a president who agrees with Sanders? Kissinger, although reprehensible, is venerated by the military-industrial crowd. By cheering on “deep state” Trump attacks, Democrats may be summoning a demon that will one day turn on them.


10. Keep in mind that we need to work with Russia.

Nobody benefits from escalating tensions with Russia (except the aforementioned financial interests). Russia continues to wield considerable influence in the Middle East, and it still commands the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons outside the United States. We will need to keep talking to Russia, come what may.

We can condemn Putin’s tactics and still understand that we need to negotiate with him.

But negotiation becomes tougher politically when liberal commentators on MSNBC characterize Russia as “an adversarial, aggressive power” and suggest conspiratorially that it might start a war to throw the 2016 election. (It didn’t.)


11. Fight oligarchy, not each other.

These Russia claims may turn out to be true or they may turn on the ones who are peddling them. It’s like the saying goes: sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

Here’s a better way to fight Trump: No less an authority than Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), wrote a Project Syndicate essay headlined “Trump’s Extreme Oligarchy.”

Johnson concluded that Trump’s “American oligarchs” will “offer various strange justifications that deflect attention from the essentials of their policy: lower taxes for…people like them, and higher taxes — not to mention significant losses of high-paying jobs — for almost everyone else.”

We have no hard evidence of a secret conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. But we know there’s a common thread that binds them: greed.

It’s greed that we know we must fight: the greed of plutocrats like Trump and his cabinet, and the greed of national security contractors who would heighten international tensions for their own gain.

But progressives and Democrats shouldn’t fight each other. That may be what the “almost deep state” wants, but it’s not what the country needs. We can build a unified movement around the corruption that’s already been uncovered in Trump’s “swamp cabinet” and the money-crazed GOP.

Impanel that commission, because we deserve the truth. But until we have the truth about Russia’s ties to Trump — from reputable, public and trustworthy sources — let’s fight President Trump with the weapons we already have at hand: the weapons of truth, accountability and justice.

Those weapons will never hurt the hands that hold them.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

Do You Remeber?

Remember When Trump Said He Would Have A ‘Plan To Defeat ISIS Within 30 Days’?
Time’s Up, No Plan.

One of the many things Trump promised during his campaign was that he would have the best and quickest plan to defeat ISIS.

In mid-September he told NBC during the “Commander-in-Chief forum” the following:

“When I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t, I may love what the generals come back with. I have a plan, but I don’t want to ― look, I have a very substantial chance of winning, make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is. Let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan, I’m not going to call you up and say, we have a great plan.“

Just the day before this interview he announced that he would give the military’s top generals 30 days to submit a plan for soundly defeating ISIS.

Guess what? 30 days just ended. No plan.

Authoritarian Presidency

Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Presidency is Emboldening the Israeli Far Right

Trump’s travel ban has only re-enforced Benjamin Netanyahu’s antagonistic world view
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The Trump administration recently gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a tepid slap on the wrist regarding the burst of new illegal settlement building on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying this “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.  The ascendancy of the president and his ideologically rightwing team is emboldening the Israeli extreme right as well as our own homegrown white nationalists. Trump’s chaotic distrust and fury towards Muslims entering the US and his promise to move the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem both feed this frenzy of racism and demonization. This all lends support to an “us” versus “them” version of the world where toughness and military might supercede diplomacy. The Israeli right couldn’t be happier.

I have just returned from the region where I saw the rising power of the right wing led by leaders such as Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman, a settler whose political stands are best described as fascist and racist, and Education Secretary Naftali Bennett, who shares similar views. Bennett is pushing for the annexation of the huge Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and 60 percent of the West Bank, where the massive settlement expansion is occurring. Ma’ale Adumim is located just outside of occupied East Jerusalem and annexing it would effectively cut the West Bank in two. In addition, the Israeli parliament has just passed a bill that retroactively “legalizes” Jewish settlements located on Palestinian privately owned land.

Meanwhile Palestinians are facing increasing loss of land, the inexorable construction of new settlements, and the separation wall, 85 percent of which may be located within the occupied Palestinian Territories once it’s finished. Palestinians in the West Bank face permitting and mobility issues daily, waiting in hours-long lines at checkpoints, and the two million residents of the Gaza Strip are effectively imprisoned there. Palestinians suffer from restrictions on Israeli-controlled water availability, often only receiving water delivery every few weeks for some six hours during which they fill their rooftop water tanks, hoping it will last until the next time the spigot is opened. I saw rising numbers of home demolitions and extrajudicial shootings by trigger happy Israeli military; every Palestinian guilty until proven otherwise, which was often too late.

A particularly egregious incident occurred on January 18, when two Palestinians – one of whom was a beloved teacher and father of twelve—were killed during a home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev. In addition, Ayman Odeh, a member of the Israeli Knesset or parliament representing Palestinian Citizens of Israel, was shot in the head by Israeli security forces with a sponge-tipped bullet during the attack. The residents of Umm al-Hiran, who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, were transferred to this village in 1956 by the Israeli government, but it remains an “unrecognized village” due to the byzantine and racist policies that characterized Israel’s approach to its non-Jewish populations. The military was destroying the Bedouin village to make way for a Jewish Israeli village on the same land. On January 24 the headline in Haaretz, read: “Umm al-Hiran: A Cautionary Tale of an Israeli Government Emboldened by Trump.”

Enter our new president who has no political expertise, even less knowledge of the history of this complicated region of the world, a set of far-right advisors, and a temper that takes offense and is easily triggered to make irresponsible decisions without regard for their consequences.

Add to this dangerous concoction the Breitbart News/Steven Bannon version of reality which is simultaneously anti-Semitic and “pro-Israel.” Jews in the US threaten the Aryan nation-style Christian purity that is the goal of white nationalists, thus the sooner “they” leave to “go home,” the sooner the Jewish question will be resolved, striking another blow against multi-culturalism. At the same time, the State of Israel is useful as the US bulwark in the Middle East, a partner in a vast military industrial complex, fighting the savagery of the Muslim Arab world, defending American “values,” and hastening the coming of the apocalypse, if you are an ardent Christian Zionist. Israel has become a shining example of a successful state, supported by the US, where ethnic purity and institutional racism are embedded in the social consciousness and legal system beneath a veneer of a “Jewish democracy.” Trump’s unfettered and extremist arrogance will dangerously embolden the Israeli right in its quest to control historic Palestine and complete the displacement of its indigenous population that began long before 1948.

Alice Rothchild - A Boston-based physician, author, and filmmaker who is active in the US Jewish peace movement.

How Trump’s Billion Dollar Border Wall Will Be Financed?

Matt Lauer Pins Down Squirming Kellyanne Conway on How Trump’s Billion Dollar Border Wall Will Be Financed

“I’ve got time,“ Lauer told Conway. “Explain the ‘complicated form’ to me.“


President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway defends Trump’s executive orders on immigration on TODAY, saying it’s “high time” the U.S. spend money protecting its own borders. She also defends Trump’s call for an investigation into voter fraud and pushes back about allegations that Trump’s daughter Tiffany is registered to vote in two states. “Why not have an investigation?” she tells Matt Lauer.

ETC.

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  • The fight over criminalizing flag-burning goes back 125 years, to another time when white Americans felt threatened. Politico


  • FAKE NEWS HAS REAL-LIFE CONSEQUENCES: “A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to ‘self-investigate’ a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign,” Washington Post

  • The fake story, which went viral online in the weeks before the election, claimed that HRC and John Podesta were running a child sex ring from the backrooms of the popular family restaurant, near Connecticut and Nebraska avenues NW in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media and received death threats. BuzzFeed


  • Ivanka Trump’s presence at her dad’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe struck some as odd. It turns out that the soon-to-be first daughter is nearing a licensing deal with the Japanese apparel giant Sanei Internationa. “The largest shareholder of Sanei’s parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government. ... Discussions for the deal have been active for about two years, Ms. Trump’s company said. In that time, she has become something of a local fascination. ‘At the moment,‘ said Sayumi Gunji, a lifestyle-magazine editor who attended the viewing, ‘Ivanka is even more popular here than Mr. Trump.’ ... Ms. Trump, the only sibling to match her father’s instinct for self-commodification, has used the Trump Organization’s payroll, information technology and human resources for her separate brand. Her website’s domain was registered by Trump Organization lawyers.“ New York Times

  • Meanwhile, Charlene Chen, claiming to be a representative of Trump’s businesses, arrived September 08 in Taiwan to explore investing in a redevelopment project south of Taiwan’s biggest airport.  “‘I told them: Isn’t Mr. Trump campaigning for president? Isn’t he very busy?‘ the mayor, Cheng Wen-tsan, said ... ‘They said she is a company representative. His company is still continuing to look for the world’s best real estate projects, and they very much understand Taiwan’ ... On Friday, Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said that there were ‘no plans for expansion into Taiwan’ and that there had been no ‘authorized visits’ to Taiwan to push for a development project.‘“ This was directly contradicted by a Facebook post from an executive at the company, who shared pictures from what she described as a work trip. New York Times


  • Remember last November, when Carson came under fire for his claim to have tried to stab a friend as a troubled youth in Detroit, only to have the friend’s belt buckle act as a shield for the knife’s blade? Trump didn’t buy it, and he had a belt buckle to prove it:

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  • And remember that time Trump compared Carson to a “child molester,“ for some of Carson’s admissions in a 1996 autobiography he had tried to attack his mother with a hammer?

Key Dates in Fidel Castro’s Government in Cuba

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Key events in Cuba under Fidel Castro:


January 01, 1959 — Castro’s rebels take power as dictator Fulgencio Batista flees Cuba.


June 1960 — Cuba nationalizes U.S.-owned oil refineries after they refuse to process Soviet oil. Nearly all other U.S. businesses expropriated by October.


October 1960 — Washington bans exports to Cuba, other than food and medicine.


April 16, 1961 — Castro declares Cuba socialist state.


April 17, 1961 — Bay of Pigs: CIA-backed Cuban exiles stage failed invasion.


February 07, 1962 — Washington bans all Cuban imports.


October 1962 — U.S. blockade forces removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba. U.S. President John F. Kennedy agrees privately not to invade Cuba.


March 1968 — Castro’s government takes over almost all private businesses.


April 1980 — Mariel boatlift: Cuba says anyone can leave; some 125,000 Cubans flee.


December 1991 — Collapse of Soviet Union devastates Cuban economy.


August 1994 — Castro declares he will not stop Cubans trying to leave; some 40,000 take to sea heading for United States.


March 18, 2003 — 75 Cuban dissidents sentenced to prison.


July 31, 2006 — Castro announces has had operation, temporarily cedes power to brother Raul.


February 19, 2008 — Castro resigns as president.


July 2010 — Castro re-emerges after years in seclusion, visiting a scientific institute, giving a TV interview, talking to academics and even taking in a dolphin show at the aquarium.


April 19, 2011 — Castro is replaced by his brother Raul as first secretary of the Communist Party, the last official post he held. The elder Castro made a brief appearance at the Congress, looking frail as a young aide guided him to his seat.


April 19, 2016 — Castro delivers a valedictory speech at the Communist Party’s seventh Congress, declaring that “soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain.“


November 25, 2016 — Fidel Castro dies.

Presidential Elections: Myths and Deceits

Every aspect of this year’s U.S. Presidential election has been fraught with myths, distortions, fabrications, wishful thinking and invented fears. 

We will proceed to discuss facts and fictions.

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Electoral Participation

The mass media, parties and candidates emphasized the ‘unprecedented voter turnout’ in the elections.  In fact, 48% of the eligible voters abstained. 

In other words, nearly half of the electorate did not vote.  There were many reasons, including widespread disgust at both major party candidates and the weakness of ‘third parties’.  This includes disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters angry over the Democratic Party’s cynical manipulation of the primary nomination process.  Others were unable to vote in their neighborhoods because US elections are held on a regular workday, unlike in other countries. Others cast protest votes against economic programs or candidates reflecting their distrust and sense of impotence over policy.  Eligible voters generally expressed reservations over the gap between campaign promises and post campaign policies.  These political attitudes toward elections and candidates are deep-seated among those who ‘stayed home’.

In contrast among registered voters (53% of the electorate) over 90% cast their ballot.  Ultimately, the presidential elections were decided by just half of the eligible voters with the winning candidate receiving about 25% eligible votes.  This is not a robust mandate.  Furthermore, Clinton may have ‘lost’ with the plurality of popular votes, since the US Presidency is ultimately decided by the ‘Electoral College’.  In this case, Trump secured more states earning substantially more Electoral College votes, while the losing candidate’s votes were more concentrated in big cities and large coastal states.


The Myth of the Trump Revolution

Trump’s campaign displayed the typical demagogy of US politicians.  In previous campaigns Barak Obama’s promised to work for peace, domestic prosperity, social justice and immigration reform.  Once elected, Obama reneged on his pledge and continued to wage the old wars and launched new ones (seven altogether for the ‘peace candidate’).  He approved a $2 trillion dollars Wall Street and bank ‘bailout’, while leaving over 3 million family home mortgages in foreclosure.  He rounded up and deported two million immigrant workers.  Meanwhile wage inequality between black and white workers actually widened; and overt police violence against black youth increased.  We can expect Trump to follow Obama’s pattern of double speak and reverse his campaign promises.

So far, Trump seems to have appointed conventional Republicans to his Cabinet posts.  Treasury and Commerce Secretaries will remain in the hands of Wall Street insiders.  Prominent Republican warmongers will manage foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Trump has been on a post-election charm offensive to woo traditional conservative Republican Congressional leaders who had opposed his candidacy during the primaries.  They will work with Trump in lowering taxes while eliminating government regulations and environmental controls – policies that have long been on their agenda.  On the other hand, Trump’s populist pledge to ‘reindustrialize’ America will be opposed by Congressional Republicans with ties to Wall Street and financial speculators.  Trump’s promise to persuade US multi-nationals to repatriate their billions and headquarters to the US will be opposed by the majority Republican Congressional leadership.  Even a Trump Republican majority on the Supreme Court, will veto any Trump initiative to ‘force’ big business to sacrifice its tax-free overseas profits to come home and ‘Make America Great Again’.

In other words, Trump will implement only policies that coincide with the traditional Republican agenda and will continue some version of Obama’s pro-Wall Street policy.  Instead of Obama’s executive tax loopholes benefiting big business, Trump will do it through legislation.   Where Obama made pronouncement about supporting Civil rights and justice for African-Americans but actually ended up increasing police power and impunity, Trump will simply make modifications directly favoring the police state via Congressional legislation or Presidential decree.  Whereas Obama rounded up and expelled 2 million immigrant workers, Trump will go after an additional 2 million Latinos on the basis of ‘criminality’.  Obama relied on border police; Trump will beef up border patrols and concoct some agreement with Mexico’s conservative counterpart – short of erecting ‘the Great Wall’.

Obama and his Democratic predecessor, President ‘Bill’ Clinton cut the proportion of unionized workers in the private sector to 8%, through economic and labor policies backed by millionaire trade union bureaucrats. Trump, on the other hand, will crudely dismiss these impotent ‘union’ functionaries and hacks while slashing whatever remains of worker rights.

Presidents Obama and Clinton linked ‘identity groups’ with the interests of bankers, billionaires and militarists, but Trump will toss out ‘identity politics’ in favor of populist appeals to construction workers and infrastructure contractors while attracting the same Wall Street executives, billionaires and militarists that had worked closely with previous administrations.

Trump’s Wall Street appeal was clear after his victory when the stock market broke new highs, jumping 1,000 points between November 4 and 10th.

The pro-Clinton Wall Streeter boosters were smartly outflanked by the ‘silent majority’ of financial CEO’s who applauded Trump’s promises of deregulation and corporate tax cuts.

Despite the certainty of President Trump’s reneging on all his promises to American workers, he will still retain the support of small and medium businesses and professionals, who outnumber and outvote the so-called ‘white worker vote’.


Trump Complies with Rightwing Republican Agenda

To unify the Republican Party and gratify the rightwing electoral base Trump will offer up some symbolic gratification, such as:

1.      Increase frontier security -  He will triple the number of border patrol officers and extend the Obama-Clinton’s search and expel formula. His PR machines will crank out timely reports of mass deportations of Latino workers to titillate the Anglo voters – while reassuring agribusiness and other industries that their access to cheap imported labor will continue.

2.      He will appoint a rightwing WASP (first in a long time) to the Supreme Court after decades of ‘identity appointments’.  His court will try to reverse Roe versus Wade on access to abortion– satisfying Catholics, fundamentalists, orthodox Jews and Protestants – sending the issue back to the reactionary states.  Women in the urban centers and large population coastal states will retain reproductive health rights while poor and rural women will see significant regression.

3.      Trump will ‘renegotiate NAFTA’ without reversing current free trade provisions, offering tax incentives and tax penalties to discourage future flight but with little effect.

4.       Trump will force a repeal of the multi-party nuclear agreement with Iran, but he will not re-impose international sanctions because of Russian and Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council and the lucrative billion- dollar trade deals signed between Iran and Germany and France.  Trump’s Iran caper may pleasure Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby, but this would force him to violate his own stated pledge to avoid more Middle East entanglements.

5.      Trump’s anti-Muslim policy will be reduced to writing tighter immigration rules for Muslims from the Middle East and South Asia, but not include total exclusion.  These watered-down policies will quell opposition and satisfy Islamo-phobes.

6.      President Trump’s deregulation of environmental protections will alienate ecologists and the science community but will appeal to big energy corporations and their employees, workers and gas property leasers.  However, the rest of the world will continue to treat climate change as real and Trump will end up isolated in a climate-denial corner with the reactionary presidents of Poland and kleptocratic-Ukraine.

7.      Trump will face stiff opposition when he tries to break the newly restored diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba to please his rightwing Cuban exile supporters.  But the deals will go thru:  On December 1, 2016 Delta Airlines will begin three daily flights, joining a dozen other airlines to the delight of thousands of travel agency owners and employees as well as tens of thousands of tourists and visitors.  US business and agro exporters will object to any re-imposition of trade sanctions.  Trump will probably end up tossing some bones to the rightwing exile community in the way of rhetoric while maintaining diplomatic ties and Obama’s embargo.  He may expand the US base in Guantanamo.

8.      Trump will continue to support the right-wing ‘golpistas’ in Venezuela but will not commit US troops for an invasion.  He will make deals with right wing and center-left regimes in the Latin America without pushing for coups or exclusionary regional trade pacts.

9.       Trump will end economic sanctions against Russia and then negotiate some cooperation agreement with Putin to bomb Syria’s Islamist terrorists  ‘into the stone age’ and withdraw US commitments to the Saudis, Gulf Monarchies and its jihadi mercenaries on regional ‘regime change’.  He will renegotiate trade relations with China to encourage greater reciprocity, investments and exchange rates (if necessary).


Conclusion

On vital economic policies, Trump will pursue traditional Republican business policies – the linchpin being lower taxes and fewer regulations.

On identity politics (as well as human rights), Trump will tighten restrictions on access to abortion and immigration to satisfy the right-wing moralists and religious fundamentalists.

Trump will not confront Wall Street, the multi-nationals, the military industrial complex or the pro-Israel billionaires and lobbies.

US workers will find very few new well- paying jobs except in select infrastructure projects.

The industrial rust belt will continue to rust.

The tens of thousands of public sector workers and professional slashed by Trump’s pledge to cut government will not find decent jobs in the private sector.

Over time, Trump supporters who flocked to his promises for economic change will be replaced by a motley collection of Bible thumpers of all colors and faiths.  There will emerge a new groundswell of frustrated workers, employees and professionals — but where will they turn?  Certainly they must not return to the increasingly discredited ‘progressive’ Bernie Sanders, who perfected his role as political ‘Judas Goat’ herding his reluctant supporters into the blood-stained Wall Street Corral of the War Goddess Hillary Clinton – known as the Democratic Party.

~~  Professor James Petras ~~

Does Collection for Military Services Violate Teachings of Jesus?

West Virginia Catholic leaders argue that the Veteran Day collection undermines the message of non-violence as taught by Christ and the Church

“Put your sword back in its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”
(Mt. 26:52).


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This weekend, several Catholic dioceses across the country will participate in the second triennial collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS). This non-territorial diocese, founded in the 1985 by Pope John Paul II, provides pastoral services to members of the United States military stationed across the world. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia is one of several dioceses participating in this collection.

The West Virginia Chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has serious reservations about our diocese’s formal support of this collection.

Like all Catholics, Catholic soldiers have a variety of pastoral needs. The AMS is one way the church attempts to meet these needs. While some among our membership question the validity of military chaplaincy itself, all of us share a concern about the deeper messages communicated, intentionally or not, by the church’s support of the AMS collection. Namely, we believe that militarism in the United States is a problem that is getting worse, not better. Indeed, in our 2015 “People’s Pastoral” we identified a number of pervasive idolatries in the United States, including “the unquestioning, violent patriotism that works like a powerful religion to sanction and bless an economy of endless war.” In that same letter, we noted that “Even our churches fall for these idolatries again and again,” and that “[w]hen this occurs, religion cooperates with injustice and loses its prophetic impulse.” One way our churches do this is by succumbing to our culture’s unquestioning support of the wars of the United States. At best, this takes the form of sentimental slogans of “support the troops.” At worst, Catholics even join the nation’s chorus of “my country right or wrong.”

Timed as it is the weekend before Veterans’ Day, we believe this collection intentionally seeks to capitalize on the emotions of the faithful and silences our church’s teachings on nonviolence and the dignity of all human life. The collection effectively provides material support for the military-industrial complex, and indeed our own church’s part in that system. And finally, the collection gives the impression that the church takes no issue with the recent military activity of the United States, most of which has been condemned by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. As followers of Jesus, we are deeply troubled by such visible cooperation with U.S. militarism on the part of our church.

Secondly, as Catholics in West Virginia, our Diocese’s support of this collection is troubling as we have seen for decades the way that poor and marginalized people in Appalachian communities are targeted for military service due to a lack of employment and educational opportunities. Our diocese’s support for this collection normalizes these recruitment patterns which prey upon the poor and ensure what Pope Francis has called an ongoing “world war in installments.”

We agree with the view of a recent Vatican conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International, which boldly stated,

We believe that there is no “just war.” Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. […] We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.

We believe the Diocese’s support of this collection undermines this commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Therefore, we ask:

  1. That Bishop Michael Bransfield withdraw the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s support for the collection for the AMS;

  2. That pastors, priests, and other pastoral leaders throughout the Diocese refuse to implement this second collection in our churches; and

  3. That the faithful refuse to contribute to the collection and instead redirect their resources to church groups or secular organizations working for justice and peace. In particular, we encourage supporting groups who a) provide direct service to economically vulnerable, such as Catholic Charities, soup kitchens, and Catholic Worker houses; b) work for economic justice, especially in the Appalachian region; and c) raise a voice for peace, such as Catholic Peace Fellowship and Pax Christi USA. (You might consider placing this form in the collection basket to peacefully offer your dissent.)

Catholics would do well to remember that November 11 is not only Veterans’ Day, but also the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a patron saint of conscientious objectors, who told his superiors in the Roman army, “I am a soldier of Christ, and it is not lawful for me to fight.” We pray for all those affected by the wars of the United States, including U.S. soldiers, and we pray that in word and action we may become more and more a church of peacemakers, following the Lord Jesus who told his disciples to put their swords away.

Spencer, WV - © 2016, CCA. Michael Iafrate and Jeannie Kirkhope are co-coordinators of the West Virginia chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

How The U.S. Media Fails To Defend Itself Against Foreign Propaganda

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Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has posed many challenges to U.S. media. In at least one frightening respect, it has failed: News outlets are actively abetting an authoritarian and imperialist foreign power’s attempt to manipulate a U.S. presidential election to aid its favored candidate, Trump, and sanctioning an assault on the individual and civil liberties of all American citizens.

There is consensus among U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies that the WikiLeaks “dump” of emails from the Democratic National Committee, former secretary of state Colin Powell and John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is the result of illegal, targeted hacking directed by Russian intelligence services. The aim of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in publishing the emails is openly stated: to harm Clinton’s candidacy. The slow daily release of Podesta’s emails is obviously calculated to have continuing negative impact on news coverage of Clinton in the campaign’s final weeks. The Russian government’s aim in releasing the emails through WikiLeaks is also clear: to distance the emails’ provenance from Russian intelligence services to give them greater legitimacy and propaganda value.

The mainstream media has accepted this ruse. Its members treat the emails as a legitimate basis for news stories despite a general lack of corroboration of their content, the illegal nature of their seizure and their clear origin from a foreign state intelligence agency with known capacity for falsifying documents.

News editors are quick to respond: The information is out there; we have a duty to report it; if the Clinton campaign could show that the email has been manipulated, it would. But let us be clear about what has happened. Would any self-respecting news editor take a call from the head of the GRU or the FSB (Russian military and state intelligence) and accept an offer to publish a cache of emails from the staff of a U.S. presidential candidate? This is essentially what every outlet covering this story has done, in the process placing all of our private means of communication at risk of exposure from illegal invasion by any foreign power or domestic agency. The media’s freedom to publish such information may be protected, but its willingness to treat this information as news means that it has abandoned the basic ethics of journalism and its essential purpose to mediate such information for the public.

The media has generally ignored signs strongly suggesting the release of Podesta’s emails was likely coordinated with the Trump campaign. In mid-July, Trump adviser Carter Page reportedly met with the Russian intelligence official believed to be directing the illegal hacking (Page denies the meeting took place) and later that month Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Clinton’s email. In mid-August, Trump henchman Roger Stone bragged of his relationship with Assange and then warned Podesta on Twitter that he was the target of the next WikiLeaks release.

The full fruits of this effort can be seen daily on Fox News and Breitbart, the leading propaganda organs of the Trump campaign. Every offhand remark is turned into an offense by the DNC, Clinton, her husband or her aides. Nothing needs to be proven. It is sufficient for the emails to be published and accepted by other media.

What we are being introduced to — and what the free media is not defending itself against — is the confabulation of state propaganda and intelligence organs of the Russian government. Russian state television and other state-directed media frequently report actual and fake information all blended together with the intent of promoting fear of the West and of the civilizational collapse that Western democracy supposedly brings. As Post columnist Anne Applebaum has warned, such propaganda is being channeled even through Trump himself (for example, doubting that a Russian missile took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and asserting that the election of Clinton would mean the start of World War III).

What is terrifying is that it has become abundantly clear that U.S. media could not protect itself from a directed manipulation through use of fabricated documents right before the election. The precedent is set: The media will accept without verification and without regard to illegal or unethical provenance any documents, records or communications published by a foreign state power through WikiLeaks.

Clinton’s warning in the third debate about the “unprecedented” challenge posed by Russia’s interference in U.S. elections has been ignored as self-serving. Her refusal to respond to any questions based on WikiLeaks is seen as further stonewalling over questions of unethical behavior. But her warning is a clarion call and her refusal is a principled stand that the media — and the American electorate — ignore at their peril.

~~  Eric Chenoweth - Co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe ~~

Clinton Should Tell Obama To Withdraw TPP To Save Her Presidency

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but is having trouble convincing people to believe her. Imagine the trouble Hillary Clinton will have trying to build support for her effort to govern the country if TPP is ratified before her inauguration.

According to Politico’s Wednesday Morning Trade, the Obama administration is launching a “TPP blitz” push to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week said the administration is planning at least 30 trade events by the end of the month. That effort, similar to last year’s “all of Cabinet” push for trade promotion authority, is expected to shift to Capitol Hill in September when lawmakers return from their summer break.

In spite of the opposition of much of the public, both presidential candidates, all of labor, almost all Democrats, all progressive-aligned consumer, human rights, environmental and other organizations and even the Tea Party right, what is happening here is that Wall Street, the multinational corporations, most Republicans and unfortunately President Obama are preparing to insult democracy by pushing to ratify TPP. This undermine’s Clinton’s credibility while campaigning for election, and if it passes it harms her ability to govern if she is elected.

There is something Clinton can do to bolster her credibility on the TPP. Clinton on Thursday is giving an economic speech near Detroit. This speech is an opportunity for Clinton to put this behind her for good. She should loudly call on President Obama to withdraw TPP now, and call on Democrats to vote against the TPP if he does not do that.

Progressive groups are asking her to do just that, calling people to sign a petition telling Clinton: “Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP.”

Clinton Opposes TPP, But …

Clinton has stated her opposition to TPP, but has not asked Democrats to join her in opposition, particularly during the “lame-duck” session of Congress that follows the election. This is one reason that Clinton continues to have a credibility problem on TPP.

Donald Trump repeatedly tells audiences that Clinton isn’t really against TPP; she is just saying it for votes. He says she will “betray” us. This is Trump in his Monday “economy” speech in Detroit:

The next betrayal will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary Clinton’s closest friend, Terry McAuliffe, confirmed what I have said on this from the beginning: If sent to the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton will enact the TPP. Guaranteed. Her donors will make sure of it.

Along with McAuliffe, who is the governor of Virginia, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue has said she will reverse herself. And it was Clinton delegates who blocked putting specific TPP opposition in the Democratic platform. So yes, there is a credibility problem.

Dan Balz, writes about her problem at The Washington Post, in “Clinton has yet to respond to Trump’s attack on globalism“:

Clinton came out against the agreement last year to put herself in alignment with Sen. Bernie Sanders … But in doing so, she put herself at odds with the views enunciated by her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president, and raised questions about whether her change of heart was mere political expedience.

Which is why her position on trade and global economics has remained suspect to those on the left…

Balz asks:

What does Clinton really think about this aspect of economic policy? How do her views today square with what she has thought and advocated during her public career? …

Those are issues about which she has so far been relatively silent. … Trump has presented her with a challenge; is she is prepared to take it up?

… In her responses to Trump’s Detroit speech, Clinton did not address what the GOP nominee said about trade. It’s difficult to believe that was an oversight.

… Does Clinton not owe the public a fuller explanation of her views on a topic that her rival has made central to his candidacy?

Passing TPP Would Destroy Clinton Presidency Before It Starts

Polling shows that Clinton continues to have a problem with “unfavorables” and credibility with the electorate. As of now it appears Clinton will almost certainly win the election – maybe even in a blowout. But this will not necessarily be due to overwhelming support of Clinton. Instead it will be at least partly because of the ugly words and actions of her reprehensible opponent. After the election, much of the public will likely remain divided, looking for signs that things will be OK after all under a Clinton presidency.

Imagine if TPP does come up for a vote in the lame-duck session and passes. The public, particularly progressives, will certainly feel betrayed. It will also bolster the opposition, who will say, “I told you so” because of Trump’s predictions of a betrayal on TPP. If that happens, it won’t matter that Clinton has said she opposes TPP. People will feel she just said it to get votes, and now that the election is over…

This is a terrible recipe for beginning a presidency of a divided country.

Progressive Groups Asking Clinton To Lead Opposition To Lame Duck TPP Vote

The Hill has the story on how progressives intend to “pressure Clinton on TPP ahead of economic speech“:

Progressive groups are urging Hillary Clinton to publicly announce that she opposes a lame-duck session vote on the Obama administration’s Pacific Rim trade deal.

After initially supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Clinton reversed after Bernie Sanders made his opposition to the deal one of the cornerstones of his insurgent campaign for the presidency.

On Wednesday, the grassroots liberal groups Democracy for America and CREDO will begin circulating petitions urging Clinton to go further by making a public statement “urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame duck session of Congress.”
The groups would like Clinton to make that declaration in her policy address on the economy this Thursday outside of Detroit.

Buzzfeed rounded up some statements from progressive leaders, beginning with Democracy for America’s Robert Cruickshank:

“Right now, Donald Trump is running around the country using the specter of a lame-duck vote on the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership to divide Secretary Clinton from the millions of voters who agree with her that this disastrous trade deal has to be stopped,” Robert Cruickshank, a senior campaign manger at Democracy for America, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

CREDO’s Murshed Zahee also weighs in:

“Now we need her help to stop it from being jammed through Congress in a lame duck session. A personal and public statement from Secretary Clinton in opposition to a lame duck vote would provide huge momentum in the fight to stop the TPP once and for all,” CREDO’s political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Sign The Petition

You can add your own voice to this effort to get Clinton’s help stamping out TPP by adding your name to this CREDO petition:” Tell Sec. Clinton: Lead against lame-duck vote on TPP“: “Make a public statement urging the White House and Democratic congressional leadership to oppose any vote on the TPP, especially during the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.”

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

G-LtE™: “The Donald and the Pope”

The Free Press WV

We seldom comment on religion and religious beliefs, as those are private and sensitive topics. However, it seems that many of our current crop of politicians are eager to make religion, especially their own Christian piousness, a campaign issue. Generally they want to tout themselves as being the “Christian” candidate, the “Values” candidate, the “Family Values” candidate, or some similar title, indicating that they possess some moral superiority over their competitors.

We all are aware of Donald Trump’s little spat with Pope Francis, who had the audacity to suggest that some positions held by Donald and other self-proclaimed Christian candidates may not actually be in accordance with Christian beliefs, Christian Church policies, or the teachings of Jesus.  The Pope was right to question our politicians and their beliefs, values, and position. If one decides to make their own religiosity an issue in the campaign, they should be prepared to take questions, explain themselves and justify their positions in terms of their claimed core beliefs and values.

Indeed, one has to wonder if any of the many candidates for public office, from Sheriff to President, can really walk their positions back and show how their positions are derived from and are consistent with their claimed core beliefs and values. One would expect anybody claiming some religious belief system (or any belief system) as the basis for their world view, their values and morals, and their actions to be able to clearly articulate and explain their beliefs, their values, and their moral codes, and explain how their positions, policies, and actions on important issues can be derived from them.

Exactly how does one start with the teachings of Jesus and come to an adamant opposition and rejection of health care as a basic right for all, regardless of income or circumstance? How does one turn the teachings of Jesus into a rejection of and slamming the door on our poor and less fortunate neighbors? When was Jesus an advocate for denying food and shelter to hungry children? How do Jesus’ lessons lead to opposition to clean air and water? When did Jesus preach on the virtues of policies that favor the wealthy and punish the poor and working classes? For that matter, how does one derive an amoral economic system, based on rampant materialism, greed, and self-interest from Jesus’ teachings and life? These are all valid questions for those who want to proclaim themselves to be, first and foremost, Christians in the political arena.

As citizens, we all have a right and an obligation to hold our candidates and elected officials responsible for explaining their core belief systems, core values, and showing how their policy positions and actions stem from those belief systems and values. This holds for all candidates and officials, whether or not they claim to represent some particular religious group. If they cannot do that, if they cannot walk their political positions and actions back to their claimed core beliefs and values, perhaps they are not who they claim to be. Perhaps they are using their supposed religious beliefs as just another marketing ploy. Or perhaps they have no beliefs and are for sale to the highest bidder.

Sincerely,

Tom and Becky Berlin

Pope Francis v Donald Trump

The Free Press WV

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump fired back today at Pope Francis for suggesting that anyone who wants to build a border wall “is not Christian.“

Trump said it is “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question a person’s faith. Trump had kicked off the back-and-forth before the pope set off for Mexico by calling Francis  “a very political person.“

Here’s how the exchanges played out:


DONALD TRUMP:
On Fox Business Network last week, Trump said: 

“I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border we have with Mexico. And I think Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is, because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

The Vatican responded by arguing that the pontiff wasn’t jumping into the U.S. presidential race but that his concern for migrants is a global issue.


VATICAN: 
Responding late Tuesday, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said:

“The pope always talks about migration problems all around the world,“ the Associated Press reported.

Lombardi added that Pope Francis also focuses on “the duties we have to solve these problems in a humane manner, of hosting those who come from other countries in search of a life of dignity and peace.“


POPE FRANCIS:
After finishing his trip to the Mexican border, Francis told journalists: 

“A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.“

“As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.“


DONALD TRUMP:
Responding to the pope’s comments, Trump released a statement saying: 

“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President.”


Trump has said that he will force Mexico to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants from traveling to the United States.

Immigration and migrants are hot-topic issues in the Republican presidential race. Both Trump and his Republican rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, have promised to deport all of the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Trump has vowed to block Muslims from entering the country, build a wall across the border with Mexico, revoke birthright citizenship and other measures.

Pope Francis arrived in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican border town across from El Paso, Tex., on Wednesday. It was the last stop on his six-day tour of Mexico, where he highlighted corruption, violence and drug-trafficking. His stop in Juarez included a call for compassion for the thousands of migrants crossing the border into the United States.

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Reader's Comments

Readers' Recent Comments

A thorough accounting for where all the public money went could be easily achieved by a competent accountant.

Isn’t there a special account at the County’s school board office for expenditures related to all bills paid and who got the money?

Following the money trail always gets results along with verification of means, motives, and access.

By Let An Accountant Dig It Out on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If central office financial records for all public money paid out for everything from site planning, site studies and development, and everything else to get to completion of the GCES and the LES—- what is the reason?

It is known that money was spent on the Arbuckle site and Cedar Creek, and public money was paid out for the LES too.

Were County records for the spending purged and if that happened who ordered the action? The records are either in the County’s central office or they aren’t.

By End Financial Secrecy on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Hasn’t the time come to finally start naming names and making people accountable?

By Get It Done on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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How about the “BIG WV WINDFALL”....?

For 3 or 4 months now we keep hearing about the millions of dollars of tax revenue collected.

Millions and millions above ‘estimates’.  Were those ‘estimates’ honest, or fudged to begin with, so as to request higher tax rates?

Well, Justice and the Legislature now have our dollars, what will become of this windfall? Will we see tax rates lowered?  Doubt full, but we should.

Likely this windfall, created by “over-taxation”, will simply create a “party atmosphere” of legislative spending. Watch the Charleston ‘gangsters’ get their wish lists ready this coming session.

By taxpayers always lose on 11.21.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Yes.  The blame Does seem to fall to ‘local’ people. In small places like Gilmer County, it’s just a poker game, boys, and the deep pockets win.  Money speaks volumes where ‘officials’ stay silent.  Go ask for the records, see what they’ve got.

By CheatersNeverWin on 11.20.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Teachers and staff knew from the beginning that the GCES was going to be too small. They were ordered by the State to keep quiet about the shortfall and other serious concerns too.

A sixth grader could understood how many rooms were needed by dividing total student numbers to attend the school by how many students should be in a classroom.

Under sizing was the State’s fault and it cannot be rationalized any other way including to assign the blame to local people. Same applies to the over sized LCES.

By Corrupt State Intervention on 11.19.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There will never be a full, public accounting of the gross mishandling of tax dollars during WVDOE intervention.
Too many local jobs and too many embarrassments of both elected and appointed bureaucrats.
These types cover dirt for each other.

Any local whistle blowers?  Doubtful.

One school built short 4 classrooms and another built with 5 too many.  Can it get more stupid than that?
Mr. Degree and Ms. Common Sense seldom travel together.

By Full accounting will never be revealed. Never. on 11.18.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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GCBOE when the two principals give reports at board meeting could the gist of what they said be summarized in minutes to keep the County informed?

It was a welcomed development by the Board to require principals to give reports particularly if there are required updates on progress designed to improve student learning for reading, math, and other subjects.

We still have not been informed about the status of science proficiency at the GCHS based on the latest testing. Why has the State failed to release the data? Were results too dismal?

By More Specifics For Principal's Reports on 11.17.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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If it is going to cost extra money to eliminate over crowding at the GCES the financial information referenced by Do It Ourselves should be presented to Charleston and the press too.

That would help frame a solid case that crowding problems were not caused by Gilmer County because all decisions related to facilities were dictated by officials over whom the County had no oversight authority during the State’s intervention.

By Follow The Money on 11.16.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is assumed that all records for spending to include money paid out for the LCES, dropped Arbuckle site, dropped Cedar Creek site, and all bills for the GCES are in the Gilmer Schools central office.

The new GCBOE has authority to get to the truth by demanding a thorough accounting for all the spending.

Afterwards the financial officer in the central office could easily access existing computerized records and to use the information for a report to the GCBOE and the public.

By Do It Ourselves on 11.15.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Notice that most of the ‘officials’ in Gilmer County also hold regular day jobs - sometimes working on more than one paying ‘job’ at a time in the same office space. This common practice is concerning for many reasons, and it needs to be talked about when so many go without.

By QuestionablePractice on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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There are two views in the County related to the under built GCES. Although the State built the school with inadequate classrooms one group believes that we should move on to let go of the past.

Isn’t this a form of advocacy for a coverup to prevent accountability for the State’s incompetence and mismanagement?

The other group believes that there should be a full accounting for all public money spent up to the time the GCES was completed to include disclosure of recipients of the public money. 

The accounting should be done for all public money spent at the LCES, the Arbuckle site, Cedar Creek, and finally the GCES.

Reasons for the under built GCES should be fully disclosed too. When the State was in control this information was kept secret from the public with loud claims that there was adequate space at the GCES.

Now it is known that there is inadequate space at the GCES and the problem is left to Gilmer County to fix. Only in WV!

By Citizens For Financial Disclosure on 11.14.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Unprofessional issues,rude commentsand rolling eyes at the high school has become an issue. Being on cell phone talking to boyfriends,when parents etc.going into the office. Since the teachers were ask not to be on them while students in the classroom. The one in the office should not be allowed to talk personal to her boyfriend, or whoever. Also, I hope this is corrected, the personal days, etc that the board provides to staff shouldn’t be allowed to use to work or operate a second job. Let’s get the priorities straight.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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GULMER COUNTY BOE. It is time for me to let you know some issues that is going on at the High school.  I’m hoping this will be addressed at the next board meeting. 1. It should not matter if an employee has a second job or run a business. The priority job is for the board. One should not be allowed to use any time from the board to run your business. There is going on
If they want to run your business than go but not on the boards time. I would like for all employees be treated the equal. They should not be allowed to use the time the board gives them for other jobs.

By Jo Ann conrad on 11.11.2018

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

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While at it there should be an investigation of why the LES was build with too many classrooms and the GCES was built with too few. At the very least what happened is a WV horror story example of the State’s waste and mismanagement.

By Where Is The Investigation? on 11.11.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It is obvious that the GCES has a major space problem.

What options for dealing with the State’s mismanagement to cause the serious blunder are being considered by the Board of Education?

Could the original architectural design for the dropped Cedar Creek site be compared to what resulted at the GCES to accurately determine the extent of classroom space alterations?

If the architectural design at the GCES is different than the original plan for Cedar Creek the next step should be to determine reasons for the changes and where the money originally planned for needed classrooms went.

By INFO REQUEST TO GCBOE on 11.09.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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It’s long been known that Justice doesn’t happen in Gilmer County “because it all comes down to money”. And for those in charge of handling it and making decisions, it comes down to being competent to do the job,  keep accurate books and accounts and I’m sorry to say, that is seriously lacking in Gilmer County.

By Follow the Paycheck(s) on 11.06.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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What is GSC’s BOG’s plan for getting money for the next payment on the $38,000,000 bond loan the Gilmer County Commission approved?

Will the State pay or will the money come from private donations?

Money will have to come from somewhere to avoid a default.

By Where Is The Money? on 11.05.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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So sorry to hear of Kendall’s passing. I have fond memories of him at Uncle Paul’s store and the family reunions. I’m sure he will be missed greatly by those closest to him.
Please accept condolences from me and my family.

By Steve Lewis on 11.04.2018

From the entry: 'Kendall Goodwin'.

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GSC’s present plight is no secret and its future existence is in question.

Instead of expressing attitudes that GSC is being picked on could the Blue Ribbon Commission reveal why the College “tested out” as it did to fail to get more State money?

Was the “grading system” based on student enrollment trends, retention, time taken to get a degree, academic reputation, inept governance and administration, and other factors to block more funding? Informative specifics were not disclosed.

Teachers know that concerned students who want to do better always seek advice on what needs to be done to get better grades.

Similar to concerned students GSC’s supporters should be informed of what needs to be done to position the College for improved chances for survival to include eligibility for more State funding.

Saying that GSC is being picked on does nothing to help solve its nagging problems.

By What Was The Grading System? on 10.30.2018

From the entry: 'WV Legislative Update'.

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Well thank you, Details Please,  for asking!  So many problems in Gilmer and education is just one.  Look at the town, take a good look around.  Remember who runs unopposed at election time.  Vote.  Make a difference.  Hold authority figures responsible.  Allow videos, minutes and more to be shared on GFP again, for transparency.  Know your neighbors, help a friend.  Be good to each other. Amen.

By Reader7 on 10.29.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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I will truly miss my Uncle Stephen.  Telling me so much information about from gardening to canning. Just to listening to him talk with such passion for everything that he does… he had a sense of humor that always warms my heart.. listening to him play the banjo sometimes even when he didn’t feel good. he is always willing to share his recipes and his ways of doing things… his solar information he was always studying something ... I’m remember one time we asked him where he got his blackberries when it wasn’t Blackberry season and he go there’s a store down the road it’s called Walmart they have everything… He was so funny.  I love you.. xoxo.

By Robin Nunez on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Sorry for your loss. He sure did look like his father.

By Buck Edwards on 10.28.2018

From the entry: 'Stephen Blair Marks'.

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Reader 7, please give details for your suggested solutions to the County’s concerns you addressed.

The information would be helpful for consideration by school system administrators and the general public.

By Details Please on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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There is speculation that the plan is for GSC to convert to an education center for low risk federal inmates. Is this something the County and central WV needs?

By GSC's New Mission? on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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Dr. Pellett’s commentary in the 10/26/2018 issue of the Gazette includes a statement that GSC is responsible for injecting $28,000,000 into the local economy.

If GSC were to close loss of the money would cause the County to have more severe poverty than it has now.

The pressing challenge is for GSC’s administrators including its Board of Governors to exercise effective leadership to prevent closure.

Why can’t GSC take action on the long standing suggestion for it to be an innovator by establishing a five year teacher education program to enable students to earn a masters degree by graduation time?

Something must be done in WV to deal with the 700 positions for which certified teachers including those for math, science and special education are not in the classrooms.

Dr. Pellett and GSC’s Board of Governors why is a new teacher education program at the College not a viable option? Nothing else seems to be working.

The need exists, a similar program of excellence does not exist anywhere in the State, and GSC’s status would be elevated by having a masters degree program.

By GSC Alumni on 10.26.2018

From the entry: 'Paine: Plan to improve math scores to focus on algebra where a third of teachers aren’t certified'.

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GSC could make a valuable contribution to WV by doing a study to report on how grade and elementary schools with excellent results in math and reading did it.

Then, other schools could use the information as guidance instead of going it alone to reinvent the wheel.

With the Ed.D. expertise at GSC it would be a natural to take on the assignment. Dr. Pellett, would you back the initiative?

By Opportunity for GSC on 10.23.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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There is reference to signing an agreement with the State for math4life for all WV school districts. What has Gilmer County agreed to do to fix our problems?

By Agreements Matter on 10.22.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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This important news has potential for making significant progress in improving math and reading outcomes in WV.

It hinges on how quickly advantage can be taken from lessons learned in schools that excelled.

The WVBE could do an analysis of reasons for excelling and to quickly provide guidance information to other schools.

That is the way the private sector approaches problem-solving because chronic failures have consequences and the unfit are weeded out.

Dr. O’Cull could help if the WVBE is not responsive. There could be panels of individuals from excelling schools to make presentations at WV School Board Association meetings to explain what their schools did to make the achievements.

By Why Reinvent The Wheel? on 10.22.2018

From the entry: 'InMyOpinion™: Balanced Scorecard -- Where do we go from here?'.

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A characteristic of a good strategic plan is to simplify language to enable a clear understanding of all its details.

Regarding the comment about abbreviations, a simple fix for them and terms (e.g. lexile) would be to insert an asterisk or a footnote symbol the first time one of them is used to refer readers to a section at the end of the documents where the entries are defined.

This comment is not intended to be a criticism. All specialty fields have a language of their own including the teaching profession.

Suggested clarity improvements in the plans would not be time consuming for principals at the County’s two schools.

By Clarity Is Always Good on 10.18.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Looked at the strategic plan for the GCES. It is a major achievement for the new GCBE to provide the information to the public.

Suggestion. Could the GCBOE post a meaning of all abbreviations in the plan? Doing that would make it far easier for readers to understand details in the plan.

By Help Understanding on 10.17.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Thanks Mrs. Lowther and the BOE for providing meeting minutes for the public to read.

Those of us who voted for the levy would appreciate receiving specific information for what is being done at the grade school and the high school to make needed improvements for college and career readiness.

Could a current overview and updates throughout the school year be provided to the public?

Why not put the details on websites of the two schools to give the principals a chance to shine?

By Levy Supporter on 10.16.2018

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

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“engage in pedantic colloquy?“

No Bill.

By WEKNOWYOU on 10.14.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Correct.  I do not wish to engage in back and forth useless ‘banter’ with big words and no results.  What I AM interested in is Gilmer County, in all it’s ways.  Education, Food, Law and Transparency.  Fancy words are often used to hide, divide, and distract..  Plain words speaking truth for the safety and well being of the people is what I’m looking for..  Gilmer is suffering… I want it to stop. I want to see the citizens healthy, educated and strong. I want to see more jobs instead of food banks.  I want Committee meetings for all to see. I want the law to do what it should, when it should.  Plain english would work fine.  Thanks for asking.

By Reader7 on 10.14.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Lol 7, you do not wish to engage in a pedantic colloquy?

By Smart Feller on 10.13.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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All nice but a small request? Can we simplify some of the language?  Don’t mean to be rude, but fancy works aren’t needed for the Truth.

By Reader7 on 10.12.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Stop living the delusion the state will fix education.
They have caused the problem.
Remember, for them, job one IS job protection.

Rare in history, that the cause of a problem, has come forth with a solution to what they have caused. They keep resetting testing standards so as not have any ‘yardstick’ they can be measured against.  Apparently people just don’t get it?  And the WVBOE is so happy about that.

By it-ain't-a-gonna-happen. period. on 10.12.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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There is a continuum for sophistication regarding what is done with data.

Collecting and compiling it is at the low end of sophistication.

Synthesis is at the high end.

This means using results and other information to make specific recommendations for making improvements.

The State took its typical easy way out by failing to go beyond the data compilation stage.

By Easy Way Out on 10.10.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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The comment about need to find out what was done at high performance schools to determine what we could do in Gilmer County to get the same results merits a comment.

The comment flags what is wrong with the State BOE in failing to provide effective leadership.

Does anyone recall a single instance, after tens of millions of dollars were spent on amassing data, when the State BOE did anything to effectively address lessons learned at high performance schools for application at other schools?

Of course not! It is the easy way out for those in high income brackets in Charleston to collect data instead of using it to the maximum to take full advantage of lessons learned.

Could the WV School Board Association help fill the gap?

By Lost Opportunity on 10.07.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Harry, So sorry to hear of the passing of your wife.  I’m also sorry that I never got to know her because if she was anything like you, I’m sure she was pretty special.  Please know that you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.  May God’s love be with you my friend.

By Greg Garvin on 10.04.2018

From the entry: 'Judith “Judy” Carolyn Buckley Rich'.

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What is the BOE’s proficiency goal for English and mathematics and what is the time frame for achieving the goal? That is news citizens want.

Then too, how can citizens at large get involved to honor and to encourage students who improve, and what of a similar nature could be done to give special recognition to outstanding teachers who contribute to improved learning for English and math?

By Positive Changes Made By New BOE on 10.04.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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The BOE and Mrs Lowther deserve high praise for disclosing proficiency information to the public.

It is the first time since 2011 anything like this has happened.

We still do not know about results for science, and it is understood that Charleston is still “working” on it.

Now we know our serious shortcomings in math and English and there is new hope for burrowing out of the mess with everyone in Gilmer working together.

By Thanks Gilmer BOE on 10.03.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released Outlining School Performance In Gilmer County'.

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Well, dear citizen… sometimes the local ‘law’ gets it wrong.  #truth #JusticeForGilmer

By Transparency matters on 09.30.2018

From the entry: '33 charged in methamphetamine distribution operations in Harrison, Marion, and Monongalia Counties'.

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Soooo…...why do we never see a big drug bust in Gilmer?
With the college and others, there are plenty sources.
Seems strange?

By citizen 3 on 09.23.2018

From the entry: '33 charged in methamphetamine distribution operations in Harrison, Marion, and Monongalia Counties'.

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If you access http://www.mywvschool.com it is evident that some schools outpace others for math and English.

For examples look at data for Lizemore Elementary in Clay County, Alum Creek Elementary in Kanawha County, Rock Branch Elementary in Putnam county, and Greenmont Elementary in Wood County.

Gilmer BOE why not assign someone to evaluate what is being done at those school and others to make them State standouts and to apply lessons learned to our elementary schools?

The same applies to learning from others regarding how to get high marks at GCHS.

By Learn What Works From Others on 09.23.2018

From the entry: 'WV and Area Counties Balanced Scorecard for School Year 2017-2018'.

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I have not read anyone blaming our teachers.  Quite the contrary.
There have been some well thought out comments submitted too.
I am old enough to remember when we had few issues about quality education.

Forget Charleston? Better not.
Believe we are still in their “probation” period.
You better check out just what that means.

By GC--still on state probation? on 09.22.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Why not go for it on our own and use the tried and widely accepted Iowa Test of Basic Skills to evaluate learning proficiency of our children?

It is the longest running test in America and it goes back to 1936.

One outcome of using the test is that each grade would be evaluated and compared to performances to schools in other parts of America.

We would probably have to go through hoop jumps of the State’s everchanging testing too.

By Iowa Test For Gilmer on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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To compound complexity of the issue, Gilmer is different from McDowell and both are different than Monongahela.

The implication is that getting out of the crisis must be county-specific and there is no one size that will fit all of WV’s 55 school systems.

Each county is on its own and ones with the best planning, local boards of education, and administrators will shine. Forget about Charleston!

By County-Specific on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Similar to most complex problems there are several categories contributing to WV’s dismal failure in improving education results in our grade and high schools.

Information in referred journal is beginning to show up. Some of the categories include curriculum issues in high schools, block scheduling failures in high schools, inordinate emphasis on sports at the expense of academics, inadequate prep of grade schoolers to ensure that they get firm foundations in math and English Language Arts, failure to instill need for life long learning at early ages, failure for school systems to fund continuing education of teachers to prepare them for newly emerged practices for enhanced student learning, cultural impediments including failure of some families to encourage children and to give them extra learning help at home, dysfunctional families for children to grow up in caused by drug and alcohol abuse and chronic unemployment, grade inflation characterized by too many As and Bs and attitudes that nobody fails so pass them along, failure of school boards to hire the best qualified superintendents and teachers because of local emphasis on favoring “home grow” individuals, failure of school boards to define performance expectations for superintendents to make effective accountability impossible, constantly changing types of State mandated testing to cause chaos and morale problems, poor compensation of teachers necessary to attract and keep the best and the brightest, etc.

To blame all problems on teachers is a cruel travesty.

One of the weakest links contributing to a lack of progress in improving WV schools is that instead of analyzing the full spectrum of contributing problems and focusing on ones with the biggest payoff potential, the trend in Charleston is to constantly apply band aid approaches with hopes that “cures” will be stumbled on accidentally.

By Do Not Blame It All On Our Teachers on 09.21.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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The problem with preK-12 education in WV is that a holistic and and technically defensible evaluation of contributing factors to cause WV’s problems and how to deal with them has not occurred.

Instead, under direction of clueless politicians ineffective muddling prevails while selling what is done at a particular time as the definitive solution.

How many times have we witnessed muddling over the past 20-30 Years? It still goes on in Charleston.

Why not obtain a grant to have qualified experts analyze success stories around the Nation and use findings to craft a demonstration project in Gilmer County to improve our school system?

Regardless of what we do there must be open minds in seeking out what to do in homes, schools,  teacher education programs in our institutions of higher learning, continuing education for classroom teachers, and to involve various factions in our community to achieve acceptable results. Everyone must band together as a unified team to make it work.

One trap is over emphasis of sports. If the same magnitude of attention and importance were to be focused on solving preK-12 education problems in WV, great strides could be made to benefit deserving children.

By Muddling on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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Our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Mr. Ron. I too know this pain of losing a beloved father. Both of these men were taken way too soon. Praying maybe Mr.Ron, my Dad, and all the former Westinghouse employees in heaven are getting together. Love and prayers from, Adrienne and family.

By Adrienne (Trimper) Johnson on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'Ronald J. Vanskiver'.

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West Virginia’s educational failures is NOT because of classroom teachers.

It IS because of the WV Board of Education’s failures of the past 20-30 years.

That 9 member, lopsided governor board is a crime against children and education in WV as a whole.

It needs 3 teachers, 3 general public parent members, and 3 governor appointees.

Until that governors click gang is broken up, you simply see repeats of the past.  NO progress in education.

It will take the legislature to fix it, but they are too busy with the legislature created court system failure, while trying to line pockets with gas and oil money.

By Tell It Like It Is ! on 09.19.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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What is the plausible rationale for Gilmer not disclosing detailed facts similar to what Superintendent Hosaflook did?

Wood County reported 11,176 students in its 27 schools for the full FY 2018 school year.

In comparison Gilmer had 734 reported students in our two schools for the full FY 2018 school year.

Wood County had 15 times more students than Gilmer and it is reasonable to assume that it was 15 times more demanding to administer with its 27 schools.

If Wood County could get detailed facts out to the public with its significantly higher work load what keeps tiny Gilmer from doing the same?

By Why Gilmer BOE? on 09.18.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Wood County Schools exceeds state test averages'.

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We have not had a responsible, functioning, WVBE for 20 years.
Not one that would accept any responsibility.

They just keep changing ‘score keeping’ so there can be no accurate tracking of student progress.

State ranks 48th or 49th on educational outcomes. Still.
Colleges still have to give remedial classes.

The ONLY thing that changes are the names of the governor appointed players.
And just look at the ‘cost-per-pupil’ spending!
We are about the highest in the nation.

West Virginia State Board of Education = complete failure.  Nothing less.

By just more smoke and mirrors on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Balanced Scorecard Released for Public Schools in West Virginia'.

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Never could figure out why working people, retirees, volunteers are picking up trash left by adults?

Not when we have the numbers of bored prisoners we have locked up doing nothing??

By No solution here- on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Adopt-A-Highway Fall Statewide Cleanup Set for September 29'.

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Go to http://www.mywvschool.org to access more official State information about Gilmer’s schools. There are serious red flags in need of immediate corrective attention.

If you access Lewis County schools on the same web site you can review info for LES. Look at the red flags there. Worse than GES.

Instead of using the info to criticize it can be useful in seeking out opportunities for making immediate improvements.

For those who take apologetic stands that Gilmer is doing as well as some other WV counties and everything is fine, it does not mean that inferior educations for our children are acceptable.

By Look At Red Flags on 09.16.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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Who is responsible for Gilmer’s oversight of the LES?

If you access the State’s website you will learn that math and reading is red flagged for the LCES to be as bad as it can get.

Why is it that nothing is reported in Gilmer County about how that school is doing when we know that our sixth grade finishers from over there will go to the GCHS to finish their educations? 

It is like our students who attend LCES are forgotten about. Someone needs to be watching out for them.

By Who Minds The Store on 09.15.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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The really sad stories are left out.
The students who accrue debt and for whatever reasons, drop out of school after a year or two.

They have little hope of improving incomes, but still have debt.
More of them than you think.

By More sad ones to be told. on 09.14.2018

From the entry: 'Student-Loan Debts a "Loss of Freedom" for Some in WV'.

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Information made ‘public’ forces accountability.
Do not hold your breath lest you turn blue.

‘They’ want elected. Get their place at the trough.
Then discover ‘exposure’ makes their work more difficult.

Informed citizens make informed decisions.
Why do we see the same names being elected over and over and over?

By WHEN we're allowed to see it......? on 09.14.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Lots of work to be done with schools in Gilmer County. 2017-2018 Summative Assessments out today for student achievement.

Gilmer County High School.

For Math
*Exceed or Meet Standards=40% of Students.
*Fail to Meet Standards=60% of Students

For Reading
*Exceed or Meet Standards=36% of Students
*Fail to Meet Standards=64%

The scores speak volumes. What was done to accurately determine causes of failures and what will be done about it? BOE, the public has a right to know answers.

By Public Demands Answers on 09.13.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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The Founding Fathers screwed up, we should not have to work and pay our bills. Let that man behind the tree work and pay for it all.
Free education should be a right.
Free food should be a right.
Free healthcare should be a right. 
Free transportation should be a right.
Free entertainment should be a right.

By Smart Feller on 09.13.2018

From the entry: 'Student-Loan Debts a "Loss of Freedom" for Some in WV'.

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Thank you BOE members and Mrs. Lowther. Let’s work together at all community levels to make Gilmer County an educational power house in West Virginia. We can do it as an effective team and provision of information will be the key to success.

By Better Times On The Way on 09.12.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Superintendent Set Her Goals for School Year'.

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Accountability - good point - and across Gilmer County.  We’ve seen glimpses and pieces of news WHEN we’re allowed to see it, mere mortals that we are. But never any follow up.  And the information come in bits and pieces (remember when we actually got to SEE what the Gilmer County Commission was up to?)  My question is, why do we never see the accountability or repercussion for actions of current Gilmer ‘elite’??

By Transparency matters on 09.12.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Encouraging news that the superintendent will present her goals for Gilmer Schools on 9/10.

We assume that there will be a commitment for specific goals to achieve, measurable outcomes, completion dates for different steps and final goal achievement, and a meaningful monitoring program to determine if we are on track or there is need for mid-course fine tuning.

If any of this is missing there will not be meaningful accountability. Excellent business plans have all the components addressed above.

By Waiting To See on 09.09.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Just saw this. Am so sorry.

By Betty Woofter on 09.06.2018

From the entry: 'Shirley F. Wilmoth'.

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Well, this is nice.

However, there have been promises and attempts more than I care to remember.

Canaan Valley, GSC deal.  Broadband to every holler.  Near twenty years ago.

Ole Joe spent money made promises. 
Little Missy Moore got on that wagon too.

Seems so much of this money chatter comes just before election time?
We be waitin’ though, but won’t hold our breath.

By Thanks EDA for trying. on 09.04.2018

From the entry: 'G-CommunityImprovement™: Gilmer County EDA Receives Community Block Grant'.

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The expectation is that the new board will provide a “tell it as it is”  status report on current student achievement with a comprehensive plan for improvements.

The plan should include a firm commitment for accurate progress reports at scheduled intervals.

If nothing is done by the board that would be a way to skirt accountability for the County’s school system.

By Need Measurable Results on 09.04.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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If the board wanted you to have the info—you would get it.

Otherwise you are likely wasting time thinking about it?

Remember how loud actions speak?

By no info flow on 09.02.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Could the Board get Mrs. Mason’s report summarized and put on the GFP? This should be some of the most important information in years all citizens have a right to know.

By Gilmer County School Watch on 08.29.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Appears the Governor will appoint 5 Supremes?

That means the 5 Supreme Court Judges will be beholding to the Governor?

Will the Governor ‘own’ the Supreme Court?

The Judge’s actions will answer that question.

By Hanshap on 08.28.2018

From the entry: 'Justice Appoints Jenkins and Armstead to West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals'.

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Something is wrong with the way storm water all of a sudden rushes down hill from GSC’s parking lot located at the front of the administration building.

Down hill from the south corner of the lot runoff is so bad during storms to make rocks wash out to litter the unnamed steep street up hill from property formerly owned by the Barker’s.

Rocks and other debris are beginning to deposit over a drain at the entry of the steep hill to cause more water problems.

GSC please fix the problem.

By Property Owners on 08.28.2018

From the entry: 'GSC Students Travel to Berlin'.

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Another dark day in WV history.

By Ronzel on 08.26.2018

From the entry: 'Justice Appoints Jenkins and Armstead to West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals'.

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We know that there were problems with accurate tracking of BOE finances, but nothing has been heard about what was found, who was responsible, and corrective measures to be taken. Board is requested to get a report out to the public. Nothing unreasonable about this good government request.

By Gilmer BOE Finances on 08.25.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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Accountability, you say?

When is the last time your heard that word used with any GC elected?

By accountability? on 08.25.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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It was apparent to citizens that under intervention the State practiced Machiavellian divide and conquer with the previous board and it never recovered from that type of treatment.

With a new board the county has a fresh start. Let us hope that it will function in a highly effective manner to include openness to keep the public fully informed.

By New Start on 08.22.2018

From the entry: 'G-ICYMI™: Harrison BOE sets yearly superintendent goals'.

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