Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


His whirlwind trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro’s effort to restore normal relations between their countries.


Hundreds of mostly Syrian asylum-seekers continue to arrive in Greece despite the official start of an international agreement to send migrants back to Turkey.


Francis in his homily at the Vatican decries what he calls indifference to the refugees flooding into Europe.


Facing stepped-up air and ground attacks, the jihadis are estimated to have lost about 40 percent of their territory in Iraq and more than 20 percent in Syria.


The top suspect in last year’s deadly rampage in France told investigators after his capture last week that he was planning new operations from Brussels, Belgium’s foreign minister says.


In one month, Cruz raised what Kasich has collected over the entire course of his longshot bid, new fundraising reports show.


Paint company Sherwin-Williams is buying rival Valspar for $9 billion in a move that it says will expand its reach in Asia and Europe.


CEO Tim Cook is expected to unveil some new additions to his company’s current family of iPhone and iPad devices.


Cyclists are disgruntled that the growing support for two-wheeled transportation has yet to lead to any tougher penalties for drivers who hit bikes.


Notre Dame advances in the NCAA Tournament after surviving a valiant effort by Stephen F. Ausin, 76-75.

Gilmer County Board of Education Special Meeting - 03.21.16 - Today

The Free Press WV
Gilmer County Board of Education
Central Office
Monday, March 21, 2016 - 5:00 PM

I. CALL TO ORDER - By President Simmons





In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   HS Basketball Team Hospitalized After Bus Overturns

A northwest Indiana high school basketball coach has been airlifted to a hospital after a bus carrying 26 players and staff overturned on an interstate on Saturday, the AP reports. School officials said the Griffith High School boys basketball team was traveling to a state semifinal game in Lafayette when the rollover occurred on Interstate 65 near DeMotte. Several players and coaches were injured in the accident, and everyone involved was taken to the hospital. Indiana State Police Sgt. Alan Jamerson told the Post-Tribune there were no serious injuries, but coach David Garrett was airlifted from a hospital in Kankakee, Illinois, to the University of Chicago Hospital. The nature of his injuries was unclear. The semifinal game was postponed.


The Free Press WV

►   Drone Comes Within 200 Feet of Plane Near LAX

Officials say a drone came within about 200 feet of a commercial airliner as it approached Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, the AP reports. An FAA spokesperson says the pilot of the Lufthansa A380 reported that the drone had flown closely over it when the plane was about 5,000 feet up. The FAA immediately notified the Los Angeles Police Department, which is looking for the drone’s owner. According to ABC7, the FAA prohibits drones from flying within five miles of an airport or above 400 feet. Officials worry recreational drones could inadvertently cause passenger planes to crash by breaking a windshield, damaging a critical surface, or getting sucked into an engine.

►   Video Catches Clerk Grabbing Baby in the Nick of Time - Mom collapsed moments later with apparent seizure

A convenience store clerk in suburban Denver was talking to a customer and smiling at her baby when she suddenly noticed the mother’s face glaze over. When the woman didn’t respond, Rebecca Montano reached across the counter and grabbed one of the baby’s arms. She pulled the child into her arms right before the mother slumped backward and fell onto the floor, the AP reports.

Montano handed the baby to another customer so she could call 911 and check to make sure the mother kept breathing during the apparent seizure Sunday. Montano says the woman returned to the store to thank her Wednesday. Montano says she believes in “good karma” and hopes that if something like that ever happened to her, somebody would help her, too.

►   Report: Doctors Getting Pharma Money Prescribe More Brand-Name Drugs

It certainly seems like doctors who take money from pharmaceutical companies would prescribe more brand-name drugs, but there’s never been proof of that. That is until an extensive analysis by ProPublica, which found that the more pharmaceutical money a doctor accepts, the more brand-name medicines they prescribe to patients. That’s despite generic drugs usually working as well as their more expensive brand-name counterparts and garnering similar levels of customer satisfaction. “It again confirms the prevailing wisdom … that there is a relationship between payments and brand-name prescribing,” an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School tells ProPublica. “Hopefully we’re getting past the point where people will say, ‘Oh, there’s no evidence that these relationships change physicians’ prescribing practices.‘“

ProPublica looked at records of payments from pharmaceutical companies and compared them to Medicare’s records of doctor prescriptions for 2014. They found something as innocuous as a pharmaceutical company picking up the check for a meal changed doctors’ prescription habits. The analysis showed doctors who took payments were two to three times more likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at “exceptionally high rates.“ And the problem is widespread. Of doctors who wrote at least 1,000 prescriptions in 2014, nine in 10 cardiologists took payments, as did seven in 10 internists and family practitioners. One doctor says it’s gotten to the point where doctors actually have to work to not take payments from pharmaceutical companies. Read the full story   HERE .

►   Courtroom Crooner Channels Adele at Sentencing

A convicted felon may be rolling in the deep (trouble), but that didn’t stop him from breaking out into song during his recent sentencing hearing, the Ann Arbor News reports. Singer Adele was the apparent inspiration behind the courtroom crooning of 21-year-old Brian Earl Taylor, who appeared March 10 before a Washtenaw County, Mich., judge to hear his fate on unlawful imprisonment and concealed weapon charges. “Hello there, your honor,“ Taylor can be heard serenading Judge Darlene O’Brien in a courtroom video, apparently paraphrasing Adele’s hit song “Hello.“ “I want to say I’m sorry for the things I’ve done and I’ll try and be stronger in this life I chose, but I want you to know—that door, I closed.“

Taylor closed out his minute-long a cappella plea, performed before a seemingly staid audience, with: “And your honor I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry” before also apologizing to his victim and his own mom. Taylor, who was on parole when he was arrested in November, was one of three men accused of forcing a 23-year-old man into a car and robbing him. O’Brien told Taylor he was “obviously a talented young man” and that she hopes he’ll enroll in prison programs that will help him achieve his goals—which he noted to the court include getting a business degree, going to church more, and staying away from pot—when he gets out. She sentenced him to two years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon, and 18 months to 15 years for the unlawful imprisonment charge.

►   Airmen at Nuclear Base Investigated for Drug Use

The Air Force is investigating about a dozen airmen at a nuclear missile base for alleged use of illegal drugs, in some cases possibly including cocaine, anonymous defense officials tell the AP. The drug investigation at FE Warren Air Force Base, home of the 90th Missile Wing, was to be officially announced Friday by Gen. Robin Rand, the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. The command is responsible for the entire fleet of Minuteman 3 land-based nuclear missiles; one-third of the Minuteman 3 force is operated by the 90th Missile Wing. The airmen under investigation are mainly or entirely members of a security force at the 90th Missile Wing, the officials said. The allegations do not involve officers who control the Minuteman missiles from command centers, officials said.

Security forces at nuclear missile bases are entrusted to patrol the missile fields and respond to any security emergencies. They are highly trained and given enormous responsibility. Just last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work visited FE Warren and observed a demonstration by security forces of the techniques and equipment they would use to recapture a missile silo that had been taken over by intruders. Officials said those under investigation have been suspended from their duties while their cases are being investigated. The probe is a fresh blow to a nuclear missile corps that has been under intense scrutiny for a string of lapses in training and personal conduct over the past three years.

►   Famed Pianist’s Young Children Found Dead

Police in Benbrook, Texas, responded to a 911 call on Thursday and found a tragic scene: the two young daughters of a celebrated concert pianist dead in their beds, and his estranged wife stabbed. The specifics of what may have happened became only slightly less opaque during a Friday press conference in which the Benbrook PD said Vadym Kholodenko placed the 911 call at 9:27am, just minutes after he arrived to pick up the children. “He found the mother in an extreme state of distress and discovered the children,“ says Commander David Babcock, per CBS Fort Worth. Police are waiting on autopsy results, but they say Nika, 5, and Michela, 1, were not stabbed and showed no visible injuries. Kholodenko is not a suspect; his wife and the girls’ mother, 31-year-old Sofia Tsygankova, is “being held on a mental health evaluation” in a Fort Worth hospital.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports by way of court records that the Ukrainian pianist—winner of the gold medal at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, according to a bio—filed for divorce from Tsygankova in November, two months after the pair had apparently stopped living together as a couple. The divorce is still pending. Kholodenko had been scheduled to play three shows with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra this weekend but will be replaced, reports NBC DFW. It adds that Benbrook police have responded to calls at the house in the past, though Babcock didn’t offer any specifics. Though it’s unclear whether Tsygankova’s wounds were self-inflicted or the result of an attack, Babcock said there is no active search for a suspect. Kholodenko said in a statement released by his lawyer that he “is experiencing great grief at this time and has no further comment. Thank you for respecting his privacy.“

►   Woman Arrested While Nude Is Now $125K Richer

An Arizona woman has been awarded $125,000 after an officer entered her home illegally and arrested her while she was naked. The Chandler City Council OKed the settlement Thursday, per the Arizona Republic. Esmeralda Rossi says she spoke briefly to Officer Doug Rose at her door in March 2015 when he responded to a domestic-disturbance call related to an argument with her now-ex husband; Rossi had been showering when he arrived.

Wearing only a towel, Rossi asked Rose to wait and closed the door, per ABC15. “I probably get about five steps in, and all of a sudden, I just hear boots running in after me, telling me ‘stop or I’ll arrest you,‘“ she says. At that point, Rossi’s teen daughter began filming the exchange. An internal investigation found Rose did follow Rossi inside without cause, grabbed her arm, and put her in handcuffs. Police say Rose’s incident report didn’t mention that Rossi was arrested in her home (and subsequently unarrested), was naked, or that any force was used. He retired during the course of the investigation.

►   Kindergartener Threatens Principal With Pellet Gun

A kindergartener brought a pellet gun to school and used it to threaten at least one staff member Thursday in California, KABC reports. According to NBC San Diego, the 5-year-old boy took the gun out of his backpack as students were preparing to leave for the day. After his teacher led the other students out of the classroom, the boy pointed the gun at the principal, who was also in the classroom, and said, “This is a gun and it’s used to kill people.“ The principal took the gun away without further incident.

The child was suspended on Friday for up to five days, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The school considers the pellet gun—a small black pistol with an orange tip—to be a toy and not a weapon and didn’t involve police. Officials say the boy wouldn’t be charged anyway because of his age. School administration spoke with the boy’s mother, who didn’t know her son had brought the gun to school. She says it was left at their house by a friend of one of her older children, and officials don’t believe any further action is necessary.

►   This Could Be Our First-Ever Female Combatant Commander

President Obama will name Air Force General Lori Robinson to lead the military’s Northern Command, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday. It’s one of the top US military positions and Robinson would be the most senior general overseeing North American activities. She “would also be the first ever female combatant commander,“ Carter says, per Reuters. The US Northern Command “was created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks to coordinate and improve homeland defense and to provide support for other national disasters,“ the AP reports.

Obama’s nomination of Robinson “shows ... we have, coming along now, a lot of female officers who are exceptionally strong. And Lori certainly fits into that category,“ Carter, speaking at an event hosted by Politico, added. The nomination of Robinson, who is currently the head of the Pacific Air Force, is subject to Senate confirmation. If confirmed, she would report directly to Carter.

►   Women Confront Ugly Realities in America’s Most Beautiful Places

The Huffington Post has a harrowing look at the “troubling history of hostility toward women” within the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and state parks and wildlife departments. That history, which continues to this day, includes rape jokes, up-skirt photos, threats of sexual assault, and revenge against any woman who dares stand up to that behavior. One example—and there are many—comes from wildlife biologist Cheyenne Szydlo. “From my earliest memories, there was never any place that felt safer or happier to me than the outdoors,“ Szydlo says. That changed in 2006 during a river trip with boatman Dave Loeffler after Szydlo accepted what she thought was a dream gig at the Grand Canyon.

During their trip down the river, Szydlo says Loeffler asked her to describe her sexual fantasies so he could make them come true, called her “hot sexy biologist,“ invited her to sleep with him, encouraged her to pose naked for a photo, and more. When she ignored his behavior, things got dangerous. She says Loeffler stopped her from putting on a life preserver at some rapids, and she nearly drowned while he laughed. Alone in the wilderness with Loeffler, who was in charge of everything from food to the satellite phone, Szydlo began planning how she could escape if necessary. She eventually made it back to civilization, but things only got worse when women tried to report such incidents. One victim recalls being told by a supervisor that they “used to not call it sexual harassment until the guy whipped out his penis and slapped you across the face with it.“ Read the full story   HERE .

►   Police May Have Found Remains of Woman Missing Since 1997

Houston police—with the help of a convicted kidnapper—may have found the remains of a Texas teenager missing for nearly 20 years, the Houston Chronicle reports. Jessica Cain was 17 when she disappeared after a high school musical cast party in 1997. On Friday, police found what they believe could be Cain’s skeletal remains in a horse pasture. According to KTRK, police had been searching the field for 25 days after receiving a tip from William Reece. Reece is serving a 60-year sentence for kidnapping a woman, but he’s been linked to at least five murders and kidnappings—all taking place in 1997, KHOU reports.

Teams are still working to uncover the remains, which were found at least four feet underground. They need to get every bone they can in order to reconstruct the body. “Right now, we have no clue who this person is,“ Det. Richard Martinez tells the Chronicle. “If it is not Jessica Cain, we have to find out who it is.“ Authorities are unsure how long it will take to ID the remains. Next week, police plan to start digging at a second site were they believe Reece may have buried another body.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Alleged American ISIS Fighter: I Followed a Girl

The accused ISIS defector from Virginia says he made a “bad decision” and now regrets his actions. In an interview with K24 TV, Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, says he left the US in December, visited London and Amsterdam, then arrived in Turkey, where he met a woman from Mosul, Iraq, who said she could take him there, per ABC News. “So I decided to go with her,“ he says. “I was not thinking straight.“ They took a bus to the Turkish border, then a taxi into Syria. On January 16, another bus brought Khweis to Mosul. There, “our daily life was prayer, eating, and learning about the religion for eight hours,“ he says, per NBC News, which describes the interview as “heavily edited” and notes he made no mention of “combat activities.“ “I didn’t agree with their ideology and that’s when I wanted to escape.“

Kurdish forces say Khweis was among a group of fighters they exchanged fire with on Sunday and was captured on Monday near Sinjar “for attempting to enter the Kurdistan region,“ per CNN. Khweis says he was trying to contact Kurdish forces. “I wanted to go back to America,“ he says, adding he didn’t view ISIS fighters as “good Muslims. ... The people who control Mosul don’t represent a religion.“ The US Justice Department is planning to press charges, reports CBS News. A University of Texas School of Law professor suspects Khweis will likely be a “a huge priority for intelligence collection,“ per the Daily Beast. Khweis’ mother says she last saw her son a couple months ago and had no idea he was in Iraq. Khweis’ father, a Palestinian immigrant, turned a water hose on reporters outside his Virginia home on Monday, while a brother yelled, “You’re wrong, you’re wrong.“

►   North Korea Fires Missile That Flies 500 Miles

North Korea ignored UN resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials say, days after leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the US mainland, the AP reports. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile fired from a site north of Pyongyang flew about 500 miles before crashing off the North’s east coast. It was the first medium-range missile launched by the North since it fired two in April 2014, says a South Korean defense official. Earlier this week, North Korea’s state media said Kim had ordered tests soon of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads.

A military expert at the South’s Konyang University says it’s likely that Friday’s launch was a test of a re-entry vehicle mounted on Pyongyang’s purported Rodong missile. The North Korean missile fired may not be a Rodong but a long-range missile whose launch angle was altered so that it didn’t fly its full range, says a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He says the missile may have carried an empty warhead, which contains trigger devices but lacks plutonium or uranium, to see if it can survive the fiery re-entry and detonate at the right time. Japan denounced the launch and lodged a formal diplomatic protest, warning that it will take “all necessary measures” to defend itself, reports Reuters.

►   Museum Peeved Over Anne Frank ‘Escape Room’

The Anne Frank Foundation has criticized an “escape room” made to look like the Amsterdam apartment where the teenage Jewish diarist hid with her family from the Nazis. According to its website, the Escape Bunker in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, has a room styled to look like the apartment. Visitors are locked in and have to escape within an hour using teamwork, creativity, and “out-of-the-box” thinking, reports the AP.

In a statement Friday, the foundation said the Frank family’s hidden apartment in Amsterdam was one of the places where the Holocaust, or Shoah, played out and said, “It shows very little empathy for survivors of the Shoah to use the annex as a backdrop for an escape room.“ The operator of the attraction calls it “an educational experience.“

►   Migrants Will Be Returned to Turkey Under New EU Deal

The migrant crisis in Europe will enter a new chapter Sunday after the EU and Turkish government agreed Friday to return all migrants and refugees attempting to enter Europe to Turkey, the Washington Post reports. It adds that the deal essentially “turns Turkey into the region’s refugee camp.“ In return, Turkey will get $6.6 billion, quicker hearings on possible EU membership, and the possibility of visa-free travel throughout the EU. According to the Wall Street Journal, EU countries will take one legally processed Syrian refugee—up to 72,000—from Turkey for every refugee returned attempting to enter Greece. EU leaders say they want to stop the “human suffering” of migrants who are paying smugglers to get them from Turkey to Greece by sea. More than 350 migrants and refugees have died making the trip this year.

Critics of the deal, including many human rights groups, say it will only increase the suffering of migrants, as well as possibly violating both EU and international laws. Turkey doesn’t hold to the Geneva Convention when it comes to refugees. “Turkey itself is a human-rights-abusing country,” the director of Human Rights Watch in Germany tells the Post. “Parts of Turkey are now like a war zone. How does this make Turkey an appropriate country to manage refugees?” In order for the deal to be lawful, Greece will have to offer individual hearings for any migrants who continue to make it that far, which will require a lot of manpower, Reuters reports. Approximately 1 million migrants and refugees came to Europe through Turkey and Greece in 2015.

►   Most Wanted Man in Europe Is Captured

Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris terror attacks and Europe’s most wanted man, was captured alive Friday during a raid in Brussels, Belgian counterterrorism sources tell CNN and the AP. The 26-year-old was believed to be hiding out in a Brussels apartment since the November 13 attacks, and a raid on that apartment earlier this week turned up Abdeslam’s fingerprints and DNA. But two people escaped that raid, apparently including Abdeslam. (One person, an Algerian also believed to have been involved in the Paris attacks via calls from Belgium, was killed in that raid.) Friday’s raid reportedly involved a shootout that ended with Abdeslam being brought into custody.

Abdeslam is a brother of one of the suicide attackers in Paris, and he is believed to have driven three suicide bombers to one of the attack sites. “We got him,“ Belgium’s asylum minister said about Abdeslam Friday, per   SKY NEWS .

►   Bus Carrying Exchange Students Crashes, Kills 14

A Spanish official says a bus carrying university students back from a fireworks festival has crashed in northeast Spain, killing 14 passengers and injuring 30, reports the AP. There were 57 people aboard, adds the BBC, the majority of them exchange students. Jordi Jane, spokesman for Spain’s northeastern Catalonia province said emergency rescue workers were still working to clear the wreckage that straddled the AP7 highway’s central fence.

A regional government statement said the bus crashed early Sunday on the highway that links Spain with France along the Mediterranean coast near Freginals, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona. Jane said the students—part of the Erasmus exchange program—had traveled to Valencia to take part in the renowned “Fallas” fireworks festival and were returning when the bus crashed.

►   Bird Halts Roller Coaster, Strands Riders Upside Down

Roller-coaster riders at one of Beijing’s major amusement parks were left hanging upside down for almost 20 minutes when a bird stood on one of the ride’s safety sensors. The Happy Valley Amusement Park said it took 18 minutes to bring the 26 riders to safety via a maintenance channel on Saturday afternoon, reports the Beijinger. Not scary enough? The site notes that passengers were stranded near the ride’s peak height—nearly 100 feet in the air. No one was injured, though there were unsurprising reports of nausea, dizziness, and shock. The roller coaster was back in operation later in the day, reports the AP.

In a statement, the park said that a bird had landed on the sensor and in doing so activated an emergency procedure, immediately stopping the roller coaster as it traveled upward. Ironically, the Happy Valley park describes the ride on its website as “facing down, you can experience the feeling of flying like a bird.“

►   2 Americans, 3 Others Killed by Suicide Bomber in Istanbul

A suicide attacker detonated a bomb on Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street on Saturday, killing five people, the AP reports. The White House announced that two of the dead were American citizens, though it didn’t identify them, according to AFP. Twenty other people were injured in the attack. The attacker is among the dead. Governor Vasip Sahin said the explosion occurred outside a local government office on Istiklal Street, which is also home to cafes, restaurants, and foreign consulate buildings. Sahin said one of wounded victims died in hospital. The private Dogan news agency said at least three of the injured are Israeli nationals.

Turkey was already on edge following two recent suicide car bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, which were claimed by a Kurdish militant group, which is an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The most recent attack, on March 13, targeted a line of bus stops on Ankara’s busiest street and killed 37 including two bombers. “It was one loud explosion,“ Muhammed Fatur, a Syrian who works at a butcher shop near the scene of Saturday’s explosion tells the AP. “Police came to the scene and sealed off the area.“

►   Paris Suspect Salah Abdeslam Charged With ‘Terrorist Murder’

Belgian authorities have officially charged Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam and another man with “participation in terrorist murder” and in the activities of a terrorist organization, the AP reports. Three other suspects were also picked up during Friday’s police raid in Brussels that finally nabbed Abdeslam after his four-month fugitive run following the November 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris. The prosecutor’s office also charged one of them with “participation in the activities of a terrorist organization and the hiding of criminals.“ Two others who had been implicated in sheltering Abdeslam were released Saturday by police, even though one of them was charged with hiding criminals.

Abdeslam’s lawyer says his client will fight efforts to extradite him to France. Belgian prosecutors said earlier they are confident the suspect will be extradited to France. Interpol is calling on countries to be vigilant at their borders, saying accomplices of Abdeslam may try to flee after his capture. In a statement Saturday, the international police agency recommended closer checks at frontiers, especially for stolen passports. Belgian and French officials say they believe other accomplices could still be at large.

►   The Pope Is on Instagram Now

Pope Francis officially joined the Instagram generation on Saturday, and he’s already bringing a unique voice to the social media platform—in that his first post wasn’t a cat video, photo of food, or selfie. Instead, His Holiness—or @franciscus, as he’s now known on Instagram—posted a picture of himself praying along with the phrase “pray for me” in nine languages. CNN reports the Pope had 100,000 Instagram followers within an hour of launching his account. His first post had more than 65,000 likes and nearly 12,000 comments in the first three hours. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, who met with the Pope last month, called the Pope’s first Instagram post “an incredible moment” and said his “messages of humility, compassion and mercy will leave a lasting mark,“ according to Time.

A Vatican spokesperson says the Pope joining Instagram is a “particularly smart move” because it’s quickly becoming more popular in Catholic-heavy countries like Italy, Mexico, and Brazil. Pope Francis has embraced social media during his three years in the position. He actually announced his first Instagram post on Twitter, were he has nearly 9 million followers. “I am beginning a new journey, on Instagram, to walk with you along the path of mercy and the tenderness of God,“ the Pope tweeted. But for anyone worried the Pope will soon be too distracted by filter options to get any work done, CNN points out someone else does his social media for him.

►   Iraq Rocket Attack Kills US Service Member

An American service member was killed by a rocket attack on a base in northern Iraq on Saturday—13 years to the day after the Iraq war began in 2003. A US official tells CNN that the service member, who was on security duty at the Makhmur base, was killed and several other troops were wounded in the attack. The service member, whom the military will not identify until his family has been notified, is the first American to die from hostile action in Iraq this year. In October last year, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler of Roland, Okla. was killed during a raid that freed scores of ISIS captives. He was the first American killed by hostile action in Iraq since 2011.

G-OpEd™: Outside Counsel Policy Ends Cronyism, Saves Millions

Lawmakers’ adoption makes good government policy permanent
The Free Press WV

West Virginia taxpayers deserve transparency, competitive bidding and millions of dollars in cost savings, all of which my administration delivered with its implementation of an outside counsel policy.

This initiative, already responsible for saving taxpayers more than $4.3 million since 2013, revolutionized the process by which my office selects private law firms to represent West Virginia whenever such assistance is determined to be cost effective and in the state’s best interest.

My policy immediately ended the “friends and family plan” and set into motion a new day for West Virginia. Its effectiveness garnered national attention and just this month the state Legislature codified the policy into law with passage of House Bill 4007.

The Legislature’s bipartisan support permanently ends decades of cronyism. It blocks future attorneys general from reverting to the days of inflated attorney fees and little transparency, which unnecessarily cost millions of dollars and harmed the legal reputation in West Virginia.

One big expense cut lies with a 25-percent cap on legal fees for the first tier of monies recovered. Significantly, we are pushing to even lower that amount and recently awarded a contract at a 20-percent level – all of this to spend as little as possible on outside counsel, while still relying on outside help when our office lacks resources or expertise to pursue a matter.

Fewer dollars expended on outside counsel means more money for consumers and the state of West Virginia, which in turn eases the financial burden of state taxpayers.

The policy utilizes a combination of transparency and competitive bidding to end cronyism. It requires written determination that a need exists, followed by public advertisement and an objective review of the proposed bids.

In certain instances, exemptions to bidding may be appropriate, but the public will always know the reason for such an exemption.

The written determination outlines specific findings as to the need for outside counsel. It also examines the time, expertise and geographic area involved with litigating the case.

A public advertisement then appears on the Attorney General’s Office website. The policy sets forth wide distribution of the request to ensure broad inclusion in the bidding process for an array of qualified firms.

The bidding process ends with the attorney general evaluating the bids based upon factors outlined in the policy. If the received proposals prove insufficient, the policy further outlines a process by which the office can solicit a second round of bids.

Our policy, as now codified into law, provides a blueprint for hiring outside counsel, but it remains my desire to handle cases in house as much as possible. Doing so only adds to the costs savings realized by taxpayers

For instance, the state expended no funds for outside counsel in its case against Frontier Communications.

The Frontier matter settled out of court for $160 million in promised infrastructure improvements, consumer fee reductions and payments to the state. Handing all legal work in house easily saved hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, which strengthened the settlement by ensuring consumers realize more of its benefit.

Again, one of my top priorities is to save West Virginia money. I believe we can accomplish this by limiting the use of private law firms and strictly adhering to our policy in those instances where their assistance is required.

Together I believe these initiatives will be yet another way to help West Virginia reach her potential.

~~  Patrick Morrisey serves as attorney general for West Virginia ~~

DHHR Extends Deadline for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today extended the deadline for individuals known as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to report information to DHHR regarding their employment status.

Individuals who fall into the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents category are defined as those receiving SNAP benefits between the ages of 18 and 49, with no dependents, and do not qualify for an exemption.  These individuals must contact their local DHHR office or by calling 1.877.716.1212 about their work intentions by April 30, 2016, or they will lose their SNAP benefits.

Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents need to meet a work or education requirement for a monthly average of 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving SNAP benefits.  This requirement went into effect for Berkeley, Cabell, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Monongalia, Morgan, and Putnam counties.  The goal of this federal policy is to provide needed employment and training opportunities for those defined as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents in the above counties.

Letters are expected to go out late next week to this population and there will be no interruption of benefits through April 30, 2016.

Those who qualify for an exemption to these requirements include people who are caring for a child or incapacitated family member; medically certified as unfit for work; regularly participating in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program; pregnant; working 30 hours per week or receiving earnings at least equal to 30 hours a week at the federal minimum wage; receiving unemployment compensation; or currently at least a part-time student.   

Since October 2015, DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families has notified people in the nine affected counties with phone calls and five reminder letters.

“The deadline was extended to April 30, 2016 to give SNAP beneficiaries sufficient time to respond to the changes,” said Nancy Exline, Commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families.  “West Virginia has provided ample notice to these individuals and we are simply asking them to call DHHR to report the information to a caseworker and get their program enrollment started.”
SNAP Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents may report their information to 1.877.716.1212, or their local DHHR office in the counties listed below.

Berkeley           304.267.0100                         Marion             304.368.4420
Cabell             304.528.5800                         Monongalia       304.285.3175
Harrison           304.627.2295                         Morgan           304.258.1350
Jefferson           304.724.2600                         Putnam           304.586.1520
Kanawha           304.746.2360

DHHR is partnering with WorkForce West Virginia to offer the SNAP Employment and Training Program to assist Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents SNAP recipients who must meet the work requirement.  To accommodate these individuals, DHHR will collaborate with WorkForce Investment Boards (WIBs) located in Charleston, Huntington, White Hall and Martinsburg.  This program will help SNAP recipients with placement in an educational activity, a work-related program to prepare recipients for employment, or to gain employment.

SNAP is 100 percent federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and offers nutrition assistance to eligible, low-income individuals and families.  USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Mountwest CTC to raise tuition by 5 percent next year

HUNTINGTON, WV — Not knowing how much money Huntington’s Mountwest Community and Technical College is set to receive from the state for the next fiscal year, the school’s Board of Governors has voted to raise tuition by 5 percent, the highest possible amount allowed by the state.

The board was facing an April 1 deadline when it voted Thursday.

The uncertainty stems from the fact that West Virginia lawmaker ended the legislative session last week without balancing the state’s budget.

It is the fourth year in a row the board has voted to raise tuition and fees amid dwindling state funds.

Mountwest officials say they have been planning for at least a 6.5 percent cut in state funding but are bracing for it to be even higher.

►   Work on West Fork River dam removal project to start

CLARKSBURG, WV — The removal of the first of three Clarksburg Water Board dams on the West Fork River is set to start next week, officials said.

A contractor will start moving in heavy equipment Monday at the West Milford Dam, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coordinator Callie McMunigal said.

McMunigal said the dam’s removal should take about three weeks, at which time workers will then proceed to remove the Two-Lick Dam, followed by the Highland Dam.

The water board voted 2-1 last March to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to remove the structures.

The board wants to rid itself of liability and maintenance costs associated with the dams, while Fish and Wildlife wants to restore the West Fork to its natural state and improve fish habitat.

Hartland Dam will remain in place, as the pool above that structure is where the board draws water to treat for public consumption.

The removal of the dams has been met with some resistance, including from board President Paul Howe, who considers the decision an overreach by the federal government.

“It has nothing to do with health and safety,“ said Howe. “It’s the federal government wanting to control our waterways. There are historical values to these dams.“

McMunigal said she thinks some people’s attitudes will change once the project is completed.

“I think in the long run people will be happy with the restored river,“ McMunigal said. “It will be a cleaner river when we get the litter out, and it’ll be a healthier river for fish-and-wildlife people who use it as a resource.“

►   Protesters concerned over discolored water at Fayetteville Elementary School

FAYETTEVILLE, WV — Around 50 protesters, some of whom were younger students, marched through downtown Fayetteville Friday afternoon as part of Headwaters Defense’s concern over discolored, reddish water coming out of several water fountains at Fayetteville Elementary School.

“I just find it hard as a teacher to ask children to consume something that I would not consume myself,” Kristine Gilkey, an art, music, and physical education teacher at Fayetteville Elementary said Friday.

Amidst chants of “prove that it’s safe” and “water tests now,” the group eventually ended their protest by entering the Fayette County Health Department with several discolored water samples taken from the school and requesting the employees inform the State Department of Health and Human Resources of the problem.

“I feel morally bound to not let children drink this water until all the tests have been conducted we have the ability to do,” Brandon Richardson, co-founder of Headwaters Defense said. “I believe that’s the only way we can ensure it’s safe.”

Employees at the County Health Department said they would follow proper procedure by alerting the Board of Health.

“All that we’re told is that it’s safe now, but I don’t believe it,” Gilkey said. “I want to see further testing. I want to see what’s inside that water.”

On January 26th, students at the school were restricted from drinking fountain water and asked to use hand sanitizer instead of traditional hand washing. Last week, those restrictions were lifted. Then the water discoloring returned.

Richardson, who believes that clean water is a right for all Americans, said they are obligated to protect students and staff from being exposed to water with a potential pollutant.

“This community again has proven to me that they have their own community in mind and they’re willing to protect their community,” he said.

Richardson, an Oak Hill native, said the fight is for his community.

“My family’s been around for a really long time, and we know just about everyone,” he said. “There’s not one neighborhood that I can go in and not know someone in and be concerned from myself and worry about all the people around him.”

The end goal remains a comprehensive test, Richardson said. He doesn’t want to see Fayetteville earn the notoriety of Flint, Michigan.

“We want the State Department of Health and Human Resources to figure out how they are going to allocate these resources and get our sampling testing done,” Richardson said.

►   wv Senate leader says lawmakers should have been told of additional budget shortfall sooner

CHARLESTON, WV — The majority leader in the West Virginia Senate sees “multiple ways through the malaise” when it comes to the state budget for the 2017 fiscal year which begins on July 01.

As of now, there is no spending plan and only guesses as to when lawmakers could return to Charleston to approve one.

A balanced budget, said Sen. Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson, 04), will likely include sweeps of agency accounts along with money from the Rainy Day Fund.

“When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you use the money that you set aside to deal with crisis situations. That’s what it’s for,” he said.

Updated revenue estimates for the coming fiscal year, provided to lawmakers during Tuesday’s Extended Session, reflected a projected shortfall of $92.4 million greater than originally predicted due to continued downturns in global energy markets.

“If we’re going to have revenue shortfalls, let us know ahead of time,” Carmichael said of the late number revelations. “You just don’t discover a $100 million revenue shortfall 12 hours before we’re scheduled to vote on the (budget) bill.”

During an appearance on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Carmichael said Republican leaders should have been notified of and brought into discussions about the larger anticipated shortfall “much earlier.”

Without the tobacco tax increases Governor Earl Ray Tomblin proposed at the start of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session in January, which accounted for $148 million in new revenues, the 2017 budget hole has grown to an estimated $240 million, including the additional $92.4 million.

Carmichael is a supporter of adding at least 45 cents to the existing 55 cent state tax on a pack of cigarettes. That proposal was rejected in the House of Delegates during the 2016 Regular Legislative Session.

“I’m on board with promoting those revenue increases, but if the House does not go that direction, we can still balance this budget with expenditure cuts, dipping into the Rainy Day Fund and then make the structural, long-term changes to our budget,” Carmichael said.

“That’s what the people of West Virginia want.”

In all, projections bring the anticipated budget for the next fiscal year down to $4.09 billion.

A Special Session for budget work could be called as early as April.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Lead Contamination Found in 2K U.S. Water Systems

The Flint water crisis has put lead contamination in the spotlight and the problem isn’t confined to the Michigan city: In the last four years alone, testing has revealed around 2,000 water systems in the US with excessive levels of lead, including hundreds that supply schools or day care centers, according to a USA Today investigation. The analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data found that a total of around 6 million people were affected, and the problem was found in every state. Even more worryingly, almost 200 of the water systems ignored federal rules about notifying consumers of high lead levels, which are caused by lead plumbing fixtures as well as the old lead service lines that still supply more than 7 million homes in the US.

The Flint crisis is an extreme case, but authorities say similar problems are widespread, mainly affecting smaller water systems. “There’s no question we have challenges with lead in drinking water across the country,“ a spokesman for the EPA’s Office of Water tells USA Today. “Millions of lead service lines in thousands of systems.“ The agency plans to strengthen regulations to trigger more public warnings about contaminated water. NPR reports that lead contamination has been such a persistent problem for schools that some areas, including Baltimore, have permanently switched to using bottled water.

►   Guy Knocked Off Boat Swims 7 Hours to Puerto Rico

On Sunday morning, Michigan man David Thompson sailed away from Puerto Rico, bound for Florida. Sunday night, he staggered into a Puerto Rico hotel restaurant bleeding, exhausted, and wearing only a shirt that he had fashioned into makeshift shorts. The 68-year-old retired engineer had been knocked off his sailboat by a wave in rough seas around four miles from shore. As he tried to climb back aboard, more waves took away his life jacket, which was connected to the boat, and most of his clothes as the boat drifted away. Thompson tells the AP that it took him seven hours to swim and float his way to a beach, where his legs were cut by coral as he made his way ashore.

Thompson says he knocked on doors for help but was ignored, probably because he looked like a drunk. He found help at the hotel, where he was given food, water, and clothes. “That man ate so much rice and beans that it seemed like he had not eaten for three days,“ hotel worker Sandra Villanueva says. “I truly admire him. He was so beat up. He had lost all his clothes. His heads, his hands, his feet were all beat up.“ He was taken to a nearby hospital, where treatment for dehydration is expected to last at least four days. Thompson says thoughts of his 2-year-old granddaughter kept him going during the swim. “I wanted to see her and hug her again,“ he says. “And I have a wife and a nice life. I didn’t want to die.“

►   Waitress Stiffed for ‘Not Looking Normal’

Customers failing to leave tips is a daily fact of life in the restaurant business, though a diner’s excuse in Iowa was outstandingly bad: “Tips are only for normal looking people,“ the customer wrote on the bill after stiffing pink-haired waitress Taelor May Beeck in Des Moines on Tuesday night. That would be shoddy behavior under any circumstances, and it was made all the stranger by the fact that it happened in a restaurant called Zombie Burger, which describes itself as “post-apocalyptic chic” and encourages servers to be individualistic the Des Moines Register reports.

“It is a real shame that someone would do this to a person in the service industry,“ a restaurant spokesman says. “We stand behind our staff and the fact that they celebrate who they are because that is at the core of Zombie Burger’s mission and a large part of what makes that environment special.“ Beeck tells WHO-TV that she can’t make a living if people don’t tip, and she has a message for Tuesday’s diner: “I would tell them to not judge someone based on what they look like,“ she says. “I mean, I may look like a weirdo, but I’m actually a very nice, decent person.“

►   Electrician Falls 800 Feet From LA Skyscraper, Lands on Car - ‘It sounded like a bag of cement fell off the edge’

An electrician working on what will soon be the tallest building on the West Coast fell 800 feet to his death, landing on a passing car, Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles, the AP reports. The tragedy occurred at the under-construction Wilshire Grand hotel at “one of the busiest times of day at one of the busiest intersections in downtown Los Angeles.“ The electrician was working on the 53rd floor when he fell, according to the Los Angeles Times. It was only his second day on the job. “It sounded like a bag of cement fell off the edge of the building,” says a Times photographer who was on assignment at the hotel. Nearly 900 people were working on the site at the time of the accident, KTLA reports. It is the first injury on the project.

The floor the electrician, who has not been named, was working on doesn’t have windows yet. Barriers had been erected to keep workers away from the edge. It doesn’t appear the electrician was wearing the required safety harness when he fell, and the construction management company says there was no electrical work that should have taken him close to the edge. The man landed on a white hatchback that appeared to have out-of-state plates. “[The driver] is not injured,“ a fire department spokesperson tells the Times. “She is scared.“ Workers had put the top on the 73rd and final floor of the 1,100-foot-tall building just four days before the accident. The site will be closed for two days during an investigation.

►   Monk Embezzled $200K From Temple to Fuel Gambling Habit

A Buddhist monk accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from his Louisiana temple to feed a casino gambling habit has pleaded guilty to fraud, the AP reports. The Advocate reports that 38-year-old Khang Nguyen Le will be sentenced June 27 after his guilty plea Thursday to one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Le served as presiding monk at the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Southeast Louisiana Inc. in Lafayette from 2010 through October 2014. His indictment last year said he withdrew money from temple accounts and used it for gambling at casinos. In a court filing, a federal agent said Le told investigators that he spent up to $10,000 playing blackjack during frequent trips to a Lake Charles casino.

►   Cops Crack Case of Who Egged Home 100 Times

Police say they have finally cracked the case of who egged a Cleveland-area home more than 100 times in a year, the AP reports. A former neighbor, 30-year-old Jason Kozan, has been charged with feloniously vandalizing the home starting in May 2014 and ending in June 2015, according to court records. Albert Clemens Sr. has said the attacks damaged his home and kept his family on edge. The lengthy investigation included undercover stakeouts, neighborhood canvassing, and testing of eggshells at a crime lab. A surveillance camera was also installed on Clemens’ home. “I would live and die in this house—but it’s been kind of a nightmare,“ said Clemens, who bought the house with his late wife nearly 60 years ago.

Clemens said he used to clean up each time but stopped because it was happening so often—the house would be egged several times a week. He said his insurer wouldn’t settle a claim until police caught the vandal, so Clemens said he would wait until then to make repairs. Detectives haven’t identified a motive for the eggings, but they largely stopped once Kozan moved away. “Somebody is deeply, deeply angry at somebody in that household for some reason,“ Lt. Mitch Houser said. A Cuyahoga County grand jury will review Kozan’s case for a possible indictment, police said.

►   Fourteen at nuke base probed for illegal drug activity

WASHINGTON — Fourteen members of an Air Force unit responsible for guarding nuclear missiles in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska are under investigation for possible illegal drug activity, including cases involving cocaine use, defense officials said Friday.

The probe is a fresh blow to a nuclear missile corps that has been under intense scrutiny in recent years for a string of lapses in training and personal conduct, first revealed by The Associated Press. The Air Force has said repeatedly over the past year that it is making significant changes aimed at lifting morale and improving performance.

The investigation at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, home of the 90th Missile Wing, near Cheyenne, Wyoming, was announced by Gen. Robin Rand, the four-star commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. The command is responsible for the entire fleet of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles that stand in underground launch silos, one third of them operated by the 90th Missile Wing. The missile force is on alert 24 hours a day, year-round, requiring strict adherence to performance standards by the men and women who operate, maintain and protect them.

Rand, speaking by telephone from his headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, said the 14 airmen under investigation range in rank from Airman 1st Class to Senior Airman and are members of the security group at F.E. Warren that is responsible for securing the missile fields and convoys that move nuclear weapons.

Rand said the 14 are accused of off-duty drug “activity,“ which he refused to further define. He said the allegations were “credible.“

“This is very important to me that we get to the bottom of this,“ Rand said, adding that he is confident the vast majority of airmen in the nuclear missile corps comply with Air Force standards of personal conduct. “We have a special trust with our nation, with our public, with the mission that we do in Air Force Global Strike Command.“

The security unit at F.E. Warren, known as the 90th Security Forces Group, includes about 1,300 airmen, Rand said, of which nearly 1,000 are junior enlisted members of ranks similar to the 14 under investigation. They are commanded by Col. Christopher L. Corley.

The investigation was started after a member of the security forces alerted his superiors of his suspicion of drug activity by another airman, Rand said, adding that the commander of the 90th Missile Wing, Col. Stephen Kravitsky, informed him Tuesday that an investigation was underway. It’s not clear when it began.

Rand said the 14 have been removed from duty while the Air Force Office of Special Investigations looks into the case. He declined to provide further details, including what drugs are allegedly involved, citing an active investigation. Two other defense officials said the drugs included cocaine; a third said the allegations include the possession, use or distribution of illegal drugs. The officials discussed details they were not authorized to release publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The allegations do not involve officers who control the Minuteman missiles, officials said.

Security forces at nuclear missile bases are entrusted to patrol the missile fields and respond to any security emergencies. Just last month, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work visited F.E. Warren and observed a demonstration by security forces of the techniques and equipment they would use to recapture a Minuteman 3 missile silo that had been taken over by intruders.

Two years ago, while then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was visiting F.E. Warren, officials disclosed that a number of launch officers, known as missileers, were under investigation for drug use. That led to the discovery that dozens of missileers had been cheating on their proficiency tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which also operates Minuteman 3 missiles. The 2014 drug investigations led to the dismissal from the Air Force last year of three missileers at Malmstrom who pleaded guilty to illegal use, possession or distribution of ecstasy.

Shortly after he learned of those drug allegations Hagel ordered a broad investigation of problems inside the Air Force nuclear missile corps, which had been extensively documented by The Associated Press starting in May 2013. At the time, he said, “Personnel failures within this force threaten to jeopardize the trust the American people have placed in us to keep our nuclear weapons safe and secure.“

The Hagel-ordered review led to numerous changes, including providing billions more in resources to the nuclear missile corps and elevating the rank of the commander of Global Strike Command, which is responsible for the Minuteman 3 force, from three-star to four-star. Rand is the first four-star to hold the job.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Horse dressed in tweed suit ahead of Cheltenham Festival

LAMBOURN, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM - Veteran race horse Morestead upped the style stakes for this year’s Cheltenham Festival by modelling the word’s first Harris Tweed suit designed for a race horse.

Complete with a flat cap and tie, Morestead wore the three-piece suit alongside champion jockey AP McCoy.

Bookmaker William Hill commissioned former Alexander McQueen apprentice Emma Sandham-King with making the suit, which took four weeks to make and used up more than 18 metres (59 ft) of tweed.

Britain’s Cheltenham Festival, a horse racing event held each year in the western English county of Gloucestershire, kicked off on March 15.

►   French Teens Can Now Smoke in School

Smoking is officially banned in schools in France, where the legal smoking age is 18, yet even underage high school students easily get away with the habit. One 15-year-old tells the Guardian he takes three smoke breaks a day on his school’s playground, where he’s encouraged to smoke and an ashtray is provided. It sounds like a stereotypical French scene—only it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it’s “one of the weirdest results” of the November terror attacks in Paris, reports Vice News. Officials feared crowds of students smoking outside schools would become easy targets for terrorists, so special measures under a state of emergency were used to encourage outdoor smoking areas on school grounds. “It’s safer for us,“ says one student. But another says the move was a surprise.

“Teachers have spent so long telling us smoking is bad for us and here they are giving us a special area of the school courtyard to do it in. Wow!“ she says, adding the change has probably helped some pupils smoke more often. A doctor—who notes 30 schools around Paris are allowing smoking on school grounds—fears it will also encourage others to take up the habit. Some 125,000 of France’s current high school students will die from smoking over the next 30 years, he says, noting, “That’s huge compared to terror attacks.“ The Ministry of Education says officials are “very committed to the fight against addiction and smoking,“ adding school principals have the final say on whether to allow smoking. The state of emergency is set to expire on May 26, though it’s already been extended twice.

►   Lula’s Return Rocks Brazil

What’s happening in Brazil at the moment has accomplished the rare feat of making American politics look kind of boring. President Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment over one scandal, and she just made an audacious move in an apparent attempt to shield former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from prosecution in a different scandal. To catch up:

  • The BBC has a primer   HERE , including Rousseff’s latest big move. She appointed “Lula” as her chief of staff, which puts him, as a Cabinet member, out of the prosecutorial reach of all but the nation’s Supreme Court.
  • The Wall Street Journal floats another theory: “Analysts believe he is effectively replacing Ms. Rousseff in all but name, filling the role of a kind of unofficial prime minister” and essentially priming himself for another run at the presidency in 2018.
  • Meanwhile, a judge released phone recordings between the two that suggest Rousseff was concerned with helping Lula avoid arrest. And thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets Wednesday. The AP has details.
  • As for the scandals, Lula is accused of taking kickbacks from energy giant Petrobras, allegations uncovered in Operation Car Wash. See the Atlantic.
  • Rousseff is accused of illegally borrowing money from state banks to cover budget shortfalls—shortfalls that may have been caused by that Petrobras scandal. See the BBC.
  • Sound like House of Cards? There’s a quiz comparing the two at Americas Quarterly.
  • Because Brazil didn’t already have enough problems: The New York Times lays them out.

►   Kerry: ISIS Is Committing Genocide

John Kerry says the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiite groups in Iraq and Syria. The secretary of state announced his findings from the White House on Thursday, citing evidence from a number of sources. “Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by its actions,“ he said, per the Boston Globe. A March 17 deadline was set last year to determine if ISIS was guilty of genocide. US officials said Wednesday that Kerry’s investigation would run long, though they now say he came to a decision only a few hours later, reports the AP. Earlier this week, the House unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution condemning ISIS of genocide after pressure from several groups.

The Knights of Columbus says ISIS militants have killed more than 1,100 Christians, while the Holocaust Memorial Museum last year found Yazidis were victims of genocide in Iraq, reports the Washington Post. “We are preparing for future efforts to liberate occupied territories,“ Kerry said, though his determination won’t force the US to take any specific action against the terrorist group. In the only other instance when a US administration determined that a genocide was being committed during an ongoing conflict—in Darfur in 2004—lawyers found that the 1948 UN Convention against genocide did not compel nations to prevent genocide unless it was occurring in their own country. Officials say lawyers came to a similar conclusion this time around.


BUCKHANNON, WV – Michael C. Tillman, President and CEO of United Hospital Center, a part of WVU Medicine, announced that Ivar “Skip” Gjolberg has been named the Administrator for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon.  Gjolberg will oversee the operations of the hospital as it becomes part of the UHC/WVU Medicine family.

Gjolberg is currently the Chief Executive Officer/Administrator of Cuero Community Hospital (CCH) in Cuero, Texas.  Over the past two and a half years, he has led successful hospital initiatives including the acquisition of three primary care clinics; recruitment of new physicians including three Family Practice/OB physicians, a Podiatrist and General Surgeon; and implementation of a Hospitalist program.

The Free Press WV

Prior to his leadership of CCH, he was the Chief Administrative Officer of the Prarie du Chien Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin where he was responsible for clinical and support services as well as the construction of a 137,000 square-foot replacement hospital.  Under his leadership, the hospital was named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by iVantage Health Analytics for 2012 and 2013.  Previously he held leadership positions with hospitals in the Hospital Sisters Health System in Wisconsin.

Gjolberg received his Master of Science in Safety Engineering from Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from Texas State University in San Marco, Texas and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas.

He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives; a member of the American Physical Therapy Association; and the National Rural Health Association.  He has been active in his community with the Cuero Lions Club, the United Way, Boy Scouts of America, St. Joseph’s Youth Ministry and was a founder of the Holy Family Parish Men’s Group. 

Gjolberg is originally from Williamsburg, Virginia and is married with five children. 

He will reside in Buckhannon and will officially begin as the Administrator for St. Joseph’s Hospital in mid-April.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV


Washington D.C. – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) announced that Community Care of West Virginia in Clay, WV and Community Health Systems, Inc. in Beckley, WV will receive grants of $3,472,945 and $2,942,742, respectively. The funding provided will assure that both centers can continue providing high-quality services to vulnerable populations.

“I commend Community Care of West Virginia and Community Health Systems, Inc. for the primary and preventive healthcare services they provide in southern West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “This funding will help enable the clinics to continue providing quality and affordable health services that so many West Virginians rely on.”

“Healthy communities are important to the overall wellbeing of our state. West Virginia’s community health centers provide needed services to children, families and seniors, and keep our communities strong. I am glad to see this funding heading to West Virginia,” said Senator Capito

The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration.

►   West Virginia State University marks 125 years of service

INSTITUTE, WV — West Virginia State University is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

University officials, students and alumni honored the historically black college’s founding during a ceremony Thursday.

WVSU President Brian Hemphill said during a speech that the college’s century of serving the Kanawha Valley has changed lives.

Over the years, the university, which was established in 1891, has changed, from a small school for blacks to a full-fledged institution of higher education.

The Founder’s Day ceremony included speeches from local and statewide lawmakers, and featured the release of a short documentary highlighting the university’s history and its impact on West Virginia and the nation.

The university also hosted a concert with the Charleston Chamber Orchestra.

WVSU will continue celebrating its founding throughout the year, until homecoming in October.

►   WV Public Safety Expo 2016

The Ninth Annual West Virginia Public Safety EXPO has been scheduled for May 04-07, 2016 at the Charleston Civic Center.

The West Virginia Public Safety EXPO is a conference offered to all Public Safety Officials in West Virginia and surrounding States.

Those in attendance include Law Enforcement, Fire Service, Emergency Managers, 911 Emergency Dispatchers, and EMS personnel.

The EXPO was started by Kanawha County officials who saw a need for training for all public safety personnel.

Each year the EXPO continues to grow with an attendance exceeding 700 attendees last year.

►   “Scrap Happy” quilts and other creations on display at 12th Annual Mid-Ohio Valley Heritage Quilt Show at Blennerhassett Museum through March 20

PARKERSBURG, WV – The final weekend to view “Scrap Happy” quilts and other needle creations is March 18-20 at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History at 137 Juliana Street in downtown Parkersburg.

“The 12th annual Mid-Ohio Valley Heritage Quilt Show is fabulous,“ said Pam Salisbury of the museum. “This year, 90 quilts make up this wonderful display of hand and machine quilted entries. It’s one of my favorite years to be part of this colorful event, with lovely, lovely quilts as art and as comforts.“

The eight different quilt entry categories include bed, wall, crib, duet, group, antique (pre-1950), other (mixed, special, applique´), and the themed category of “Scrap Happy.“ To be considered a “scrappy” quilt, 75 different types of fabric or printed fabric was required to create a one-of-a kind quilt.

Awards have been given in each category along with “Best of Show” (hand-quilted); “Best of Show” (machine quilted); “Superintendent’s Choice; and “Best of Themed” and “Best of Show.“ Visitors can vote for the “People’s Choice,“ which will be announced March 20.

Two of the award winners at this year’s quilt show are “Memories of My Pets,“ winning Best of Show by Wayne Waldeck., who saved and sewed together all the neck scarves his pets received from the groomers they were given on each visit to make this unique “Scrappy Quilt.“ “Harry Potter’s Bookcase,“ entered by Debbie Milhoan, was awarded the “Superintendent’s Choice” award.

The Blennerhassett Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children 3-12.

►   SBA leader addresses parents in Fayette County in search for new facilities plan

Fayetteville, WV — Approximately 150 to 200 residents of Fayette County heard a presentation from School Building Authority Executive Director David Sneed Thursday night.

Despite the at times acrimonious issues between the School Building Authority, Fayette County parents, and the State Board of Education during last year’s attempt to pass a Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, the SBA and Superintendent Terry George are collaborating to find the right solution to Fayette County’s school facility woes.

“We haven’t addressed the concerns that the Authority had, and there were probably fifteen or twenty of those,” David said. “If we don’t address those we’re going to end up exactly the same place where we ended up last year. Our Authority is expecting–their staff–to make sure those are addressed.”

Despite strong support from those in the plateau region of Fayette County, the CEFP presented to the SBA last December was mired by questions about long travel times for students from Meadow Bridge High School and the overall price tag, set at 39 million dollars over a three year span. Despite those concerns, Sneed said he understands why parents and residents in Fayette County are so anxious to see the improvements come to fruition.

“I think we’ve reached the end,” Sneed said. “We’ve reached critical mass as I said in the presentation because if we don’t do something now–some of these buildings will have to go offline because they are just not habitable.”

Limited matching local funding was another concern. Though George believed Fayette County would be able to contribute some matching funds, the county electorate voted against a School Bond Issue last June for the third time in fifteen years. Last year’s plan, which George helped assemble just after he became Superintendent, was a response to another failed bond issue.

“We’re going to assume that there is going to be limited local financial support for any plan that we come up with,” Sneed said. “And if that means that the county doesn’t want to pass a bond then that’s going to be up to them.”

Despite the protests last year from Meadow Bridge parents and students, Sneed did not rule out closing out Meadow Bridge High School.

“All schools are on the table,” he said. “All options are on the table. Certainly. We’re going to have to look at everything.”

Three representatives from each school in the county will now form member committees to help determine what their schools need. The deadline for Fayette County to jump the first hurdle: October 1st.

“We are in a time crunch here,” Sneed said. “Not to say that time is the most important thing. Quality is going to be the most important thing, but we’re going to need to be able to accomplish a lot and not have a lot of extra meetings and sidebar issues because we don’t have time for those kinds of things.”

Sneed said the SBA and the county will need to find innovative ways to prioritize and fund much-needed facilities improvements in the county because the overall price tag to make improvements will be very high.

“No matter how we slice this, this is probably going to be at least 100 to 150 million dollars,” he said.

Sneed added that the final number could go up, and that the improvements could potentially take more than a decade to complete.

No specifics are yet available.    ~~  Alex Wiederspiel ~~

►   Convicted Coal CEO Says He Doesn’t Have to Detail Finances

Lawyers for convicted ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship say he can withhold personal financial information under a constitutional right to remain silent during sentencing.

Blankenship’s attorneys cited the 5th Amendment in a Beckley federal court filing Friday.

Prosecutors say Blankenship is violating criminal procedure rules and restitution laws. They say they can’t tell if he anticipated fines or restitution and altered his finances accordingly.

Blankenship opposes prosecutors’ push to make him pay $28 million in restitution to Alpha Natural Resources. The now-bankrupt coal company bought Massey in 2011.

Blankenship was convicted December 3 of a misdemeanor conspiracy to willfully violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch Mine, where an explosion killed 29 men in 2010.

He faces up to one year in prison and maximum fine of $250,000.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Standout in the law, Garland would blend in at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — In experience, background and even in his personal characteristics, Merrick Garland resembles the men and women he would join on the bench if he is confirmed to the Supreme Court.

President Barack Obama nominated Garland Wednesday to take the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month. Republicans have pledged to leave the seat empty until after the presidential election and said they won’t even hold hearings on Garland’s confirmation.

Obama said he chose Garland, an appeals court judge for more than 18 years, in part because he is “uniquely prepared to serve immediately.“

Little known outside Washington, Garland has spent more than 35 years in the nation’s capital, mainly in government jobs that have made him quite familiar to the justices and high-ranking officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Garland has developed friendships and a stellar reputation that cross party lines. “He’s one of my best friends. I think the world of him as a human being. I think he’s an excellent judge,“ said Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee and Garland colleague on the appeals court, who also was so close to Scalia that he spoke at Scalia’s memorial service.

Obama passed over Garland twice in putting Sonia Sotomayor on the court in 2009 and Elena Kagan, a year later. At 63, Garland is the oldest nominee since Lewis Powell in 1971, and is older than three current justices — Chief Justice John Roberts, Sotomayor and Kagan.

He would blend in with the other justices to a remarkable degree. Like Roberts, Kagan and Justice Stephen Breyer, Garland spent a year as a Supreme Court clerk. He worked for Justice William Brennan. He and Roberts also worked for the same appeals court judge in New York, Henry Friendly.

Before becoming a judge himself, he was a prosecutor and supervised Justice Department investigations into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Former FBI General Counsel Howard Shapiro recalled Garland as “the indispensable point man” for the investigation of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people and prosecution that resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh. “He was terrific to work with, a spectacular lawyer and extraordinarily decent man,“ Shapiro said.

Since 1997, Garland has been on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where he is now chief judge. That puts him in line with seven of the eight current justices who were appellate judges before joining the Supreme Court. Only Kagan had no judicial experience.

Like the entire court, Garland has an Ivy League law degree, from Harvard.

In any other era, Garland’s religion — he is Jewish — would have added to the court’s diversity. But now, three justices are Jewish and five are Catholic.

In the White House Rose Garden Wednesday, Garland spoke of his grandparents, who came to the United States from Eastern Europe, and acknowledged his mother, who he said “is watching this on television and crying her eyes out.“

Garland is married to Lynn Rosenman Garland and they have two daughters, Rebecca and Jessica, who are Yale graduates.

Garland’s wealth was estimated in 2012 at between $7.1 million and $18.6 million, according to the most recently available financial disclosure form that judges file annually.

At the time, Garland owned significant stock holdings in several corporations with a history of court actions and lobbying contacts with Congress and federal agencies. Among Garland’s holdings at the time were investments in pharmaceutical firms Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb — each worth as much as $50,000 — stakes in General Mills, Inc. and General Electric Co. worth as much as $100,000 and an interest in Procter & Gamble Co. valued up to $250,000, according to the disclosure.

Garland’s largest investments were a trust fund and U.S. Treasury notes, each worth between $1 million and $5 million. Garland also held bank accounts at a federal credit union, Citibank and Bank of America totaling between $215,000 and $500,000. Garland’s disclosures since 2009 have also noted a property owned in New York City, but no details were provided about the property or its value.

Garland was born and raised in the Chicago area, where he attended public schools and amassed a comic-book collection that he sold, Obama noted Wednesday, to help pay for law school.

►   The 10 Worst U.S. Cities for Traffic

There’s a good reason to feel better about your commute—unless you live in one of these 10 US cities. Car services company INRIX is out with a list of the worst US cities for traffic, based on how many hours the average commuter spent in the car in 2015, per US News. In Los Angeles, commuters wasted two whole workweeks in traffic. The full list:

  1. Los Angeles: 81
  2. Washington: 75
  3. San Francisco: 75
  4. Houston: 74
  5. New York City: 73
  6. Seattle: 66
  7. Boston: 64
  8. Chicago: 60
  9. Atlanta: 59
  10. Honolulu: 49

►   Zoo Locked Down After Polar Bear Escapes

It was a bear-y close call Wednesday at the Cincinnati Zoo when a female polar bear named Berit escaped her exhibit, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. According to WLWT, the bear got out of its exhibit into an interior hallway but never left the staff-only building. Regardless, visitors were herded into conference rooms, the monkey house, the manatee house, and other indoor areas as a precaution. There were reports of armed escorts taking visitors to their cars if they wished to leave. One zoo visitor tells the Enquirer he was “a bit annoyed,“ but “this kind of stuff happens.“

The zoo was reopened after more than two hours when Berit was safely back in her enclosure. A zoo spokesperson says the bear was not harmed, and the zoo is currently investigating how Berit was able to escape. The situation could have been worse. In 1990, a Cincinnati Zoo worker lost an arm after Icee the polar bear attacked her during a feeding.

►   Bergdahl Explains Why He Walked Off Base

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said he left a post in Afghanistan in 2009 to draw attention to what he saw as bad decisions by officers above him, according to documents released Wednesday that also show he was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Bergdahl told a general who investigated the case that he hoped to cause an alarm by leaving his post, then walk to a larger base in Afghanistan so he could have an audience with a top commander. “It was a self-sacrifice thing,“ Bergdahl said, according to the transcript of a 2014 interview with Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl. He said he planned to turn up at the larger base within days and refuse to talk to anybody but a general. Instead, he wound up in enemy captivity for years and now faces charges including desertion.

In the interview, Bergdahl expressed misgivings about how he and other soldiers were sent to help retrieve a disabled armored vehicle before encountering explosives and enemy fire that turned a six-hour mission into one lasting several days. When they returned to base, an officer complained they were unshaven. He said he began to worry that a future bad order could get someone in his platoon killed. Another newly released document show that an Army Sanity Board Evaluation concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left the post. Attorneys for Bergdahl say they released the documents to counteract negative publicity over the case. “The more Americans know about this case, the better,“ attorney Eugene Fidell tells the AP.

►   Hamilton Creator: Founding Father Will Stay on $10 Bill

Fans of Alexander Hamilton need not fear a new design for the $10 bill. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of Broadway musical Hamilton, says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew assured him during a Monday meeting that he is “going to be very happy” with the new bill design, to begin circulating in 2020, which will feature Hamilton and a historically significant American woman, per the New York Times and the Hill.

A Treasury rep says Lew thanked Miranda for igniting “a renewed interest in one of our nation’s founding fathers” and “reiterated his commitment to continue to honor Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.“ Lew has previously hinted that Hamilton may take one side of the bill, while the woman may adorn the other. “Give your regards to Broadway, America,“ quips MarketWatch.

►   ISIS Hackers Have ‘Kill List’ of Dozens of Minnesota Cops

An ISIS-affiliated group of hackers released a “kill list” that includes the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three dozen Minnesota police officers, KMSP reports. The list was found on the encrypted messaging app Telegram by web analysts at Vocativ on Monday. It was created by a group called the Caliphate Cyber Army and includes the message “wanted to be killed” along with information about the officers, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The FBI is taking the list “very seriously” and is working with local agencies to track down the hackers. “Clearly, in law enforcement we don’t want this information out there at all,“ an FBI spokesperson tells KMSP.

“We’re doing everything that we can to ensure the safety of the officers,“ a St. Paul Police Department spokesperson tells the Star Tribune. Five of the officers named on the kill list are from that department, though one is retired. All five have been notified, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Hackers supportive of ISIS have issued similar threats against military personnel, New Jersey Transit police, Mark Zuckerberg, and others. It’s unclear why this list specifically targets law enforcement in Minnesota, though 25% of US citizens who’ve tried to join ISIS are reportedly from the state.

►   DC Judge Quits After Witness Accuses Him of 1981 Rape

The chief US district judge in Washington, DC, resigned abruptly on Wednesday, the same day a Utah woman filed a lawsuit accusing him of repeatedly raping her 35 years ago, NBC News reports. The lawsuit claims Richard Roberts was a civil rights lawyer in 1981 when he “intimidated, coerced, and manipulated” 16-year-old Terry Mitchell into having sex almost daily for weeks, according to the Washington Post. At the time, Roberts was a prosecutor in the trial of Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist serial killer who shot two black men while they were jogging with Mitchell and another woman. Mitchell was a witness in the trial. The lawsuit claims Roberts told Mitchell—vulnerable from her friends’ deaths and past sexual assaults—that Franklin might not be convicted if she told anyone about their relationship, the AP reports.

Roberts cites health concerns as his reason for stepping down as DC’s chief US district judge—a position he was appointed to in 1998 by Bill Clinton—and his lawyers call Mitchell’s claims “categorically false.“ They say Roberts had a consensual relationship with Mitchell only after the trial was over, which they call “a bad lapse in judgment.“ The Utah Attorney General’s office investigated Mitchell’s claims and decided not to pursue criminal charges against Roberts as the state’s age of consent was 16 in 1981. The lawsuit states Mitchell repressed all memory of Roberts allegedly raping her until an email from him in 2013, after Franklin was executed. Roberts’ lawyers say Roberts and Mitchell have stayed on good terms in the decades since the trial, exchanging calls and emails that have “always been warm, caring, and friendly,“ making her claims “puzzling and disappointing.“

►   Cops Ticket Man After He Posts Video on How to Beat Traffic

Michael Dalton found a shortcut in his Colorado neighborhood that helps beat congestion and avoids a nearby highway, so he posted it on Facebook in an attempt to help his neighbors, WCMH reports. Just two problems: The shortcut involves driving through private property, which earned Dalton criticism from some viewers ... and the video shows Dalton running a stop sign, which earned him a ticket.

The video went viral, CBS Denver explains, and police eventually found out about it. A week after Dalton posted it, an officer came to his home and gave him a ticket for reckless driving and running a stop sign. “Can they use videos from Facebook to give me a traffic violation? Can they do that to everybody?“ Dalton asks CBS. “Yes, you have a First Amendment right to post whatever you want,“ replies a local police officer, “but if you’re breaking the law and it’s in our jurisdiction, then we can do something about it.“

►   Fired Professor Explains Her Behavior at Protests

“I do not understand the widespread impulse to shame those whose best intentions unfortunately result in imperfect actions. What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance?“ So writes Melissa Click in the Washington Post. An assistant professor, was fired by the University of Missouri after videos of her pushing a student journalist and, in a separate incident, yelling at a police officer during student protests went viral. In her piece for the Post, Click blames her actions on her “inexperience with public protests” and says she had to make “sudden choices” in “challenging circumstances.“ She claims the university violated its policy of due process and bowed to political pressure in firing her despite her teaching awards, student evaluations, and more.

Click says she is “working to come to terms with how a few captured moments of imperfection could eclipse 12 years of excellence” and wonders if her “right to speak out as a US citizen requires that I must be perfect while doing so.“ But she says her situation also raises bigger questions about the direction in which society is headed. Modern technology is “exposing us to unprecedented public scrutiny” whereby “earnest mistakes made by ordinary, unknown people have increasingly become national topics.“ She believes fear of having our “imperfections” go viral will negatively affect our actions. “I don’t want to live in a world where citizens are too afraid of public scorn to take a chance. Do you?“ Read the full piece   HERE .

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Most, Least Happy Countries in the World

The annual report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on the world’s happiest and least happy countries is out, and if you live in the United States, sorry: The US doesn’t make it into the Top 10 (it’s ranked No. 13). The survey ranks 157 countries using factors including GDP, years of healthy life expectancy, freedom from business and government corruption, and “having someone to count on in times of trouble.“ The happiest:

  1. Denmark
  2. Switzerland
  3. Iceland
  4. Norway
  5. Finland

The least happy (in order from most to least happy):

  1. Benin
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Togo
  4. Syria
  5. Burundi

The SDSN notes that the editors of the list are encouraging a focus on “happiness inequality,“ saying that they have found such inequality has increased, and that people are happier in societies where there is more happiness equality. Click for the top and bottom 10 in each category from Reuters.

►   Spanish Town Opens Botched Fresco Center

More than three years after a botched fresco restoration by an octogenarian painter became a major tourist attraction for a northern Spanish town, local officials are looking to inject new life into the phenomenon by opening a center that celebrates the fresco. Borja Mayor Eduardo Arilla says 160,000 people had come to see the fresco since the story of Cecilia Gimenez’s restoration of a Christ fresco in a town sanctuary went viral in 2012. He said with the new center, the town hoped to keep attracting up to 30,000 visitors annually. Gimenez became a sensation when pictures spread on the Internet of an “Ecce Homo” (“Behold the Man”) mural she disfigured while trying to restore it. It was nicknamed “Ecce Mono” (“Behold the Monkey.“)

“It’s to give the painting a new impetus,“ Arilla tells the AP. He says Gimenez, 85, will be at the inauguration, along with the granddaughter of the little-known Spanish painter of the near 100-year-old original, Elias Garcia Martinez. The new center will bring together stories, photographs, and videos documenting the impact of the restoration. Visitors will be able to see the fresco in the adjoining chapel—and for those feeling inspired, there will be canvases to try to paint your own version. The center will also display the fresco’s new official merchandise, ranging from T-shirts to teacups. Proceeds are to be split between Gimenez and the sanctuary’s home for retirees.

►   Kazakhstan bars smartphones at government offices to prevent leaks: leaked memo

Kazakh officials and their visitors will have to leave their smartphones at the door of government buildings from March 24 in line with a new policy aimed at preventing leaks of sensitive documents, a leaked document showed on Thursday.

The memo cites “increasingly frequent cases of confidential information being leaked through the WhatsApp mobile application” and instructs public servants to use only basic mobile devices with no cameras or Internet access, two government sources told Reuters.

The full document was published by local news website

Leaked documents regularly appear in Kazakh media and recent examples include memos on privatization plans and state-owned companies’ budget revisions related to the tinge’s KZT= steep devaluation as well as a graphic video related to a murder case.

►   Australia opposition shirt-fronts govt over ‘wasteful’ wombat diplomacy

Australia’s opposition Labor Party’s launched a “Waste-pedia” booklet and Waste Watch website on Thursday, accusing the coalition government of over-lavish spending - including $400,000 on “koala and other marsupial-related events”.

“This government is obsessed with hugging koalas. We’ve had $400,000 which included (foreign minister) Julie Bishop paying $133,000 to fly four koalas to Singapore Zoo,“ opposition minister Pat Conroy said outside parliament.

“She spent I think it was $130,000 taking diplomats to Western Australia where they hugged wombats for a change – so at least they changed up the marsupial.“

It was not immediately clear how the figures were reached.

Australia’s marsupials, including koalas and kangaroos, are mammals that mostly carry their young in a pouch and are a major tourist draw for the country.

The report also flagged the cost of koala hire during the 2014 G20 summit in Brisbane, in which then Prime Minister Tony Abbott famously threatened to “shirt-front” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“Tony Abbott ... was talking about shirt-fronting Vladimir Putin, but in the end he spent $24,000 on letting him hug a koala.“

Shirt-fronting is an Australian sporting term for a tackle.

Abbott was ousted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a party coup in September last year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

►   EU closes in on Turkey migrant deal, despite rights concerns

BRUSSELS — European leaders struggled Thursday to reach a deal that balanced their concerns about legal protections for refugees and Turkey’s human rights record with their desperate need to resolve the migrant crisis.

On the table was a tentative plan to send back to Turkey tens of thousands of would-be asylum seekers who set out by boat for the Greek islands, in exchange for concessions that would reward Ankara with billions of dollars in aid, unprecedented visa access to Europe and promises of faster European Union membership talks.

Human rights groups and leading EU legislators decried the plan as a cynical cave-in, sacrificing universal rights to pander to a restless electorate fed up with hosting people who are fleeing war and poverty.

Even some leaders acknowledged the EU was walking a tightrope.

“It is on the edge of international law,“ Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said of the outline deal that the 28-nation bloc hopes to sign off on before putting it up for approval to Turkey on Friday.

Some also criticized Turkey, which hosts 2.7 million refugees, complaining it was cynically trying to exploit the situation to win concessions well beyond its reach under normal circumstances.

“Turkey is really asking for a lot. I refuse to accept negotiations that sometimes resemble a form of blackmail,“ said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Desperate to plug a yawning border hole that has seen more than 1 million people arrive in Europe in search of sanctuary or jobs, EU leaders have been increasingly looking to outsource management of the influx to Turkey.

They see the deal with Turkey as a way to halt the flow by land and sea, especially as the weather turns warmer, and prevent people from turning to unscrupulous smugglers.

Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Greek or Italian islands. About 46,000 people are stranded in Greece after Macedonia shut its border to stem the flow along a popular migrant route through the Balkans. At least 14,000 are camped in the mud at a makeshift tent city in Idomeni, on the Greece-Macedonia frontier.

At one tent, 29-year-old Soukeina Baghdadi warmed herself by a fire shared with neighbors. Like many, she wants to move to Germany and is hoping that Europe’s leaders can help.

“All the people here are waiting for the summit, waiting for the borders to open,“ she said.

Baghdadi, who was born in Lebanon but lived in Iraq with her husband, is not keen on Europe’s plan to distribute refugees like her in Greece to other EU states.

“I don’t want to go through the relocation process because I’m told that would mean waiting between six months and a year,“ she said.

Under the plan, set to be finalized Friday in the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee currently in Turkey to the EU, in exchange for each person that Turkey takes back to Greece.

The U.N. refugee agency has doubts about asylum standards in Turkey, and human rights groups are concerned about Ankara’s crackdown on the media and a bloody conflict with Kurdish rebels. There also are questions about whether the deal conforms to international law.

“The proposed EU-Turkey deal won’t work,“ said David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee. “A comprehensive resettlement program is a humane, orderly and legal way to manage the refugee crisis.“

The humanitarian group said the EU has the economic might to resettle almost 300,000 people in the next five years.

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, said that “it cannot be the Turks who decide who enters the EU as a refugee. We have to keep the keys to Europe in our own hands.“

Spain also opposes any blanket return of migrants, even though the EU’s executive Commission insists that every migrant will have an individual interview and the right to appeal.

Cyprus is threatening to veto one of the sweeteners meant to win Turkey’s backing; faster EU membership talks. Turkey does not recognize the Mediterranean island’s Greek-Cypriot government.

“Every candidate country should fulfill its obligations, and it’s obvious that unfortunately, until now, Turkey hasn’t,“ President Nicos Anastasiades said in Brussels.

Even if that hurdle is overcome, the enlargement issue will crop up again. Austria, France and Germany are opposed to Turkey joining the EU.

Other issues of trust have surfaced. The EU will provide Turkey with 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help Syrian refugees, but will only increase that fund by up to another 3 billion euros more if Ankara uses the money appropriately.

“We need strong commitments from Turkey, and so far I have no assurances on this,“ Michel said, and added: “Better no deal than a bad deal.“

►   Brazil’s Crazy Political Crisis Just Got a Little Crazier

Not so fast, Lula. A judge on Thursday issued an injunction to suspend Brazil President Dilma Rousseff’s appointment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff, reports Reuters. This was no ordinary political appointment: Lula is facing prosecution in a corruption scandal involving energy giant Petrobras, and his appointment to a Cabinet position would have shielded him from prosecution by the federal judge handling that case. “In light of the risk of harming the free exercise of judicial power ... I grant the request for an injunction to suspend the nomination of Mr. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,“ wrote the judge who issued Thursday’s ruling.

His move came after Lula had been sworn in, and the government can appeal. The appointment by Rousseff, who is facing impeachment herself, had set off nationwide protests in part because only the Supreme Court, not federal courts, can investigate Cabinet members, notes the BBC.

►   U.S. Disciplines at Least 12 for Airstrike on Hospital

More than a dozen US military personnel have been disciplined, but face no criminal charges, for errors that led to the aerial attack on a civilian hospital that killed 42 people in northern Afghanistan last year, say US defense officials speaking anonymously. Per the AP, the officials say the disciplinary process is nearly complete and is derived from a military investigation of the October 3, 2015, attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz by a US Air Force special ops AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the US arsenal. The punishments, which have not been publicly announced, are largely administrative. Some actions, such as letters of reprimand, are enough to effectively end chances for further promotion; the military has previously said some personnel were suspended from their duties. The disciplined include both officers and enlisted personnel, but none are generals.

The attack, which the medical charity has called “relentless and brutal,“ was unleashed as US military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz from the Taliban. The US military’s outline of what happened: The crew of the AC-130 had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command center in a different building, 450 yards away from the hospital. However, hampered by targeting sensor issues, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital, though they saw no hostile activity there. A separate US report obtained last fall by the AP said the AC-130 fired 211 shells at the hospital over 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake. Army Gen. John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan at the time, has called it a “tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error.“ A DWB rep says the charity won’t comment on disciplinary actions until the Pentagon communicates its decisions directly to the group or makes a public announcement.

Gilmer County FFA Ham Bacon and Egg Sale - Today

Gilmer County FFA will round up their Ham Bacon and Egg program with a Local Show and Sale
The Free Press WV

Glenville, WV —The Gilmer County FFA will hold a local Ham, Bacon, and Egg sale at the Gilmer County Recreation Center on Friday March 18th, 2016.

At the sale, FFA members will exhibit fresh farm eggs and fresh country cured and smoked hams and bacons. Since August, members of the Gilmer County FFA Chapter have been working Supervised Agricultural Experiences (a program where students apply what they learn in class by completing projects outside of class that are evaluated by their instructor) that are unique to this state and bring back some tradition and history for this area.

The ham, bacon, and egg program is where students raise hogs and cure the hams and bacons for show, while getting to keep the rest of the meat.

In addition, students who have chickens can enter eggs into the show.

At the show, the meat is evaluated, graded, and placed into a sale order for an auction, where in the past, members have sold eggs for $50-$100 per dozen, hams for $8-$25 per pound, and bacons for $15-$30 per pound, which goes to the FFA members to put back into their projects. Gilmer has been active in the past with eggs, however it has been a while since any members from Gilmer have cured hams and bacons.

Last year, two members raised pigs and the meat was cured at Doddridge County High School with the Doddridge County FFA who have been curing hams and bacons for a long time.

In addition, other members raised and showed eggs. This year there are four members who have cured ham and bacon products, with additional members raising eggs to show and sell as well. Gilmer County FFA members would like to thank the Doddridge County FFA for letting them use their facilities and helping them cure their products.

Last year, Gilmer members showed and sold products at the state sale, and then at the regional sale the next week. This year, members will show at the state show and sale in Charleston, WV on March 13th-14th, and then return home to start a new tradition of having a local sale at the Gilmer County Recreation Center on Friday March 18th at 7:00pm.

Hams and bacons are country cured and smoked products from pigs raised here in the county, with eggs being raised here in the county as well. There will be a buyer’s reception with refreshments and registration staring at 6:00pm with the sale beginning at 7:00pm. During the reception, members plan to work educational exhibits on curing as well as judging eggs.

If you cannot make the sale but would still like to bid on a product, Mr. Cox has bid sheets and can be contacted at 304.462.7960. The Gilmer County FFA would like to invite everyone to attend this special event to reward members for their hard work and to help them re-start a local tradition.

Hardy Associate of the Quarter at UHC

The Free Press WV

Bridgeport, WV –United Hospital Center’s Floyd Hardy, offsite facilities technician, was recognized as the UHC Associate of the Quarter for January, February and March 2016. 

Hardy began his career at UHC in June 2012.  He was nominated by 12 of his colleagues at UHC ENT, who said that Hardy is a constant reminder of what a good employee should be and he shows fellow employees regularly (with his example) how to take pride in their work.

His Associates also said that he demonstrates hard work, dedication, great personality traits, eagerness to please and advanced knowledge of his job. They continued further by saying that Hardy is completely devoted to his job, no matter how big or small the tasks and that he always has a smile.

“Floyd is a great asset to the facilities management department,” says Geoff Marshall, vice president of facilities management.  “I receive nothing but compliments from office staff and doctors about how well he performs his job.”

Hardy is a graduate of Liberty High School and Pierpont Community and Technical College.  He has the following degrees:  International Association of Electrical Inspectors, Fire Protection Damper Technician, Journeyman Electrician, Journeyman Plumber, HVAC Licensed Technician, Universal Licensed EPA for HVAC, Fundamentals of Supervision and Management and Heat Pump Certified. 

He belongs to St. John’s Lodge #24 AF & AM, Nemisis Shriners, York Rite and Scottish Rite. Hardy resides in Wallace with his wife Tina.  He has seven children:  Victoria, Alexis, Justice, Danielle, Angel, Kiera and China.

Click Below for additional Articles...

Page 22 of 3580 pages « First  <  20 21 22 23 24 >  Last »

Keep Jack Alsop

The Gilmer Free Press

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