New Stream Protection Rule Not Tough Enough, say Critics

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV - The Office of Surface Mining‘s new stream protection rule shows federal regulators bending too much to the coal industry, according to community and health advocates.

Many are still digesting the complex regulation OSM proposed last week. The coal industry’s political allies are already attacking it in Congress, saying it would make West Virginia’s mountaintop removal mining unprofitable.

But Michael Hendryx, a public health professor at Indiana University, says the new rule is weaker than what it replaces. He says it would allow such serious health impacts as birth defects and cancer to continue.

“One of the studies that we did found direct correlations between the quality of stream life and human cancer rates,“ says Hendryx. “I don’t care one little bit what the profit is of the mining companies.“

Hendryx stresses the impacts of mining are not only environmental, but on human health and communities. The Office of Surface Mining says it plans to hold public hearings on the proposed rule.

Joe Lovett, a lawyer and executive director with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, says he and others had gotten a federal court order to make OSM properly enforce the previous buffer-zone rule against the valley fills essential to mountaintop removal.

Lovett thinks the only reason OSM wrote the new rule is to create a weaker substitute.

“There was a stream protection rule in place, it was called the Buffer Zone Rule,“ says Lovett. “It was a strong rule. We had a federal court order saying it prohibited valley fills. In response to that, OSM weakened the rule.“

A few environmentalists say there may be some good to come from the new rule, but groups including the Sierra Club and Earthjustice say doesn’t sufficiently protect streams or communities.

Lovett describes the rhetoric coming from Congress about a war on coal as nonsense.

“It’s just a myth,“ he says. “West Virginia’s congressional delegation loves to complain about regulatory controls from Washington. In fact, there are very few.“

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Social Security Projected to Hit insolvency by 2034

The Gilmer Free Press

Social Security and Medicare are inching slowly toward insolvency, according to annual trustees reports on the entitlement programs released Wednesday.

Social Security’s retirement and disability trust funds, combined, are on track for insolvency in 2034 — one year later than the entitlement program’s trustees predicted one year ago.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told reporters at a briefing that the funds are “secure today and will remain secure in the years to come,” but warned that they are also “facing challenges that need to be addressed” by Congress.

Still, the trustees warned that the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund is still on track to run dry by late 2016. If Congress does not act to close that shortfall, the fund would only be able to pay out 81 percent of benefits.

The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, meanwhile, is expected to be able to cover its obligations through 2030, the reports said. That’s 13 years later than what was projected before Congress passed ObamaCare.

The trustees reports are released only once a year, providing a glimpse of the financial health of the entitlement programs that budget experts warn are on an unsustainable path.

Changing demographic trends, Lew said, are the driving force behind the insolvency projections. The Baby boomers generation, the largest in U.S. history, is now reaching retirement age, he noted.

Congress should act soon to address the imbalances, Lew and the other trustees urged at the briefing. The other trustees are Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin, Robert Reischauer and Charles Blahous III.

“Lawmakers should take action sooner rather than later to address these structural shortfalls, so that the uncertainty now facing disability beneficiaries will not eventually be experienced by other programs’ participants,” they wrote in their report.

The most pressing issue for lawmakers is the disability fund, which will be underwater in the “fourth quarter of 2016” if Congress doesn’t take action, Colvin said.

While the trustees did not provide a more exact date, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently predicted insolvency would be reached around the beginning of fiscal 2017, or October 2016.

Nearly 11 million people received benefits in 2014 from the disability fund, Colvin said, and people who are not able to work depend on them.

“Our DI beneficiaries deserve better than this,” Reischauer said, referring to disability insurance.

President Obama proposed in his latest budget blueprint that Congress approve a small reallocation of the payroll tax for the next five years as a temporary fix for the disability fund.

That move would extend the reserve depletion date by nearly 20 years, Colvin said.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have called for reallocating the payroll tax, as Congress has done multiple times before. Republicans, however, adopted new rules earlier this year that would make such a move more difficult.

All of the trustees emphasized that Congress should consider long-term solutions to shore up Social Security as a whole.

Last year, more than 48 million people received retirement benefits, and nearly 54 million were covered under Medicare.

Senior government officials attributed the slight improvement in the projections to higher average wage growth, higher than average improvements in mortality and technical changes in projection methods.

The report was compiled with the assumption that President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration would be in effect by 2016, but a federal court order put those actions on hold in February, and they remain in legal limbo for now.

Officials said the immigration factor accounted for a modest portion of overall improvement.

An official also noted there is a “better than 50 percent chance” that the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) will not occur in 2016 due to inflation projections.

Social Security benefits rose by 1.7 percent this year, which is well below pre-recession averages and the third consecutive year in which the COLA was less than 2 percent.

When that COLA was announced, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said the tiny increase would only amount to about $20 a month for the average senior.

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Sutton Lake to reopen campground closed by high water

HUNTINGTON, WV - Sutton Lake is reopening a campground closed by recent high water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the Gerald R. Freeman Campground will reopen on Thursday. But some campsites won’t be available because some areas remain covered in mud.

The corps temporarily closed some campgrounds and recreation areas after recent heavy rainfall raised the lake above its normal summer pool elevation.

The corps says the West Virginia Division of Highways is repairing a county road to Bakers Run Campground that sustained significant damage. It’s not known when the road will reopen.

The Bee Run Day Use Area is open.

State completes $18 million widening of I-64 in Huntington

CHARLESTON, WV - The state has completed a two-year project to widen a section of Interstate 64 in Huntington to six lanes.

Work on the $18 million project began in April 2013. A section of about four miles was widened from the 29th Street to Hal Greer Boulevard exits.

Media outlets report that highways officials announced the project’s completion on Tuesday.

During construction, the speed limit was reduced to 50 miles per hour. The speed limit has returned to 65 miles per hour.

One killed, toddler injured in mowing accident

EGLON, WV — A Preston County man died and a toddler was injured in a mowing accident.

According to West Virginia State Police in Kingwood, Harlin Wolfe, Sr., 70, was killed Tuesday when the lawn mower he was driving flipped and trapped him beneath it.

A 3-year-old riding on the mower was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital for minor injuries.

That accident happened about 1:00 PM on Horse Shoe Run Road in Eglon.

Girl Scout gathering in WV to focus on outdoor adventures

GLEN JEAN, WV — Dozens of Girl Scouts are heading to the Summit in West Virginia for five days of mountain biking, rock climbing and other outdoor challenges.

The Girl Scout Jamboree gets under way Wednesday at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County. The Jamboree is expected to welcome about 240 girls and adults through Sunday.

While most of the Scouts and adults will be from West Virginia, some are also coming from Virginia and Maryland.

The Jamboree is hosted by Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council.

WV Lottery reports $1B sales mark, 13 years and counting

CHARLESTON, WV — For the 13th consecutive year, West Virginia Lottery sales have topped the $1 billion mark.

Director John Musgrave said Tuesday the lottery posted $1.16 billion in total sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Of that sum, Musgrave said more than $500 million went to state coffers.

Musgrave said money transferred to the state included $254 million from racetrack video lottery, $187 million from limited video lottery and $41 million from traditional lottery products, such as scratch tickets.

Musgrave said during the lottery’s 29-year history, nearly $3 billion has gone to education, nearly $1 billion to tourism and $1 billion for elders.

West Virginia State Police will join investigation into death of man who scuffled with Weston officer

WESTON, WV — The West Virginia State Police will conduct a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the facts surrounding the July 1st incident between an officer with the Weston Police Department and Weston native William Dale Jeffries according to First Lieutenant Michael T. Baylous, Public Information Officer for the West Virginia State Police.

William Dale Jeffries, 57, of Weston, died July 16, some 15 days after suffering a neck injury in a scuffle with officer Eric Riddle.

Police were called to a disturbance involving Jeffries, who was believed to be drunk and reportedly urinating in public near a business. Riddle approached Jeffries and asked him to take a breathalyzer. After Jeffries reportedly refused, he leaned against the police cruiser, and resisted attempts by Riddle to subdue him.

Jeffries hit his head on the cruiser, which was apparently when his neck snapped.

Officer Eric Riddle was suspended pending an investigation, but was cleared by an internal investigation conducted by the Weston Police Department. He returned to work one week after the incident in question.

Following Jeffries death, the Weston Police Department placed Officer Eric Riddle on administrative leave pending further investigation.

The results of an autopsy have not yet been released.

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:


The candidate, after his attention-getting remarks about immigrants, will travel to Laredo, Texas, and hold a news conference at the border.


The revelation raises questions about how closely Sandra Bland was monitored before she allegedly took her life in a Texas jail cell.


Dylann Roof, 21, is indicted on 33 federal counts, including hate crimes.


Kenya, which the president is visiting this week, is also a country where children, roads and schools bear his name.


The huge University of California system announces plans to increase base pay for workers to $15 an hour.


Pope Francis’ approval rating among Americans has plummeted, driven mostly by a decline among political conservatives and Roman Catholics.


Legal marijuana has complicated conversations about pot between parents and their kids.


The announcement by the University of Birmingham in England, where the parchment is housed, thrills Muslim scholars.


The docuseries on E! sheds light on Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender life - amid celebrity distractions, the AP’s Frazier Moore reports.


Michael Bradley scores for the Americans, but it isn’t enough to prevent a stunning setback in front of a sold-out crowd at the Georgia Dome.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Pennsylvania couple rents chickens to egg fans, urban farmers

A Pennsylvania couple has come up with a solution to soaring U.S. egg prices: Rental chickens. is the brainchild of Jenn and Phil Tompkins, of Freeport, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburgh. More than just a cost-beater, they see their business as a way to change how people think about food.

“It changes the mindset of people when they know where food comes from,“ said Jenn Tompkins, 38. “Pretty soon they’ll have tomato plants and be turning the chicken manure into compost.“

Since starting their home-based business in the summer of 2013, they have rented chickens, either directly or through affiliates, to about 200 customers in 12 U.S. states as well as Ontario and Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Interest has been spurred by a surge in U.S. egg prices, which rose a record 85% last month after an outbreak of bird flu led to the culling of millions of laying hens nationally, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

For about $400, depending on location, the service provides two laying hens for the four to six warm months of the year, plus a chicken coop and a guidebook.

The hens typically produce eight to 14 eggs a week, and at the end of the rental period customers have the option of buying the chickens or returning them.

The venture is one of a handful that have sprouted up around the United States in the past few years, capitalizing on renewed interest in local food production.

Hope Stambaugh, 37, and her husband Paul, 40, rented four hens this year for $600, which they are raising along with their four young children in Export, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb.

“I love the idea of knowing where my food comes from,“ Hope Stambaugh said. “How special for my kids to see that food does not necessarily come from the store.“

Municipalities vary widely in their attitude toward urban chicken farming. Philadelphia bans it, Tompkins said, while Pittsburgh earlier this month relaxed its licensing requirements to allow homeowners with lots of a minimum size to raise small numbers of chickens, ducks or hornless goats, or to keep bees.

Stambaugh said she plans to buy the chickens, named Jessie, Fluffy, Lacey and Princess, at the end of the rental period, and is thinking about moving further out in the country to add a few more.

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

Iran lawmakers said to need ‘at least’ 60 days for nuke deal

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s parliament will need “at least” 60 days to review a proposed final deal with world powers over its contested nuclear program, a prominent lawmaker said Tuesday, giving legislators in the Islamic Republic about the same time as the U.S. Congress to examine the proposal.

But while hard-liners in Iran’s parliament could vote against the deal struck last week in Vienna, their numbers wouldn’t be enough to derail a proposal already backed by the country’s supreme leader. That’s even with an influential member of the country’s Revolutionary Guard expressing concerns over the deal.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who headed the Iranian negotiating team, formally submitted the deal Tuesday to parliament. Hours later, the official IRNA news agency reported lawmakers formed a 15-member special committee to review the deal.

Under Iran’s constitution, parliament has the right to reject any deal — even one negotiated by the Foreign Ministry. But committed hard-liners in the Iranian parliament hold only about 60 of the body’s 290 seats, the rest belonging to conservatives and a handful of pro-reform lawmakers.

While hard-liners have drawn other lawmakers over to their side in previous votes, that appears unlikely in this case as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has endorsed the work of the nuclear deal negotiators. The lawmakers’ special committee may prove to be an olive branch to hard-liners — allowing them to vent their frustrations against world powers, especially the U.S., while parliament ultimately approves the deal.

Political analyst Saeed Leilaz said any hard-liner objections to the agreement likely deal with domestic politics alone, especially as a February parliamentary election looms ahead.

“The possible opposition by hard-liners only reflects their concerns about their political future since the deal gives leverage to President Hassan Rouhani,“ Leilaz said. “The talks have gone ahead under direct supervision by the supreme leader. The parliament has no power to say no.“

It’s not clear whether Iranian lawmakers will discuss and vote on the deal in an open session. State-run radio has carried previous votes on contentious issues live.

Hossein Naghavi, the spokesman of influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, told The Associated Press that “the parliament needs at least 60 days to review the deal.“

“The formation of the special committee and the process of reviewing (the deal) requires this amount of time,“ Naghavi said. However, he stressed “there is no official deadline” for finishing the review. That means the Iranian lawmakers could have their vote after the U.S. Congress. U.S. President Barack Obama already has pledged to veto any American bill rejecting the agreement.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which Rouhani heads, also is reviewing the deal.

Under the agreement, Iran pledged to curb its nuclear program for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.

The West long has feared Iran could use its nuclear program to build an atomic bomb. Iran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes, like medical research and power generation.

The U.N. Security Council voted to unanimously to accept the deal Monday. Zarif, in a speech to parliament Tuesday broadcast on state radio, hailed the Security Council resolution, though he warned that any effort to restore the sanctions would cost a “heavy price.“

“If for any reason, Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments,“ Zarif said.

Later Tuesday, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, also urged lawmakers to “pay attention to the outlines of the deal rather than its details,“ IRNA reported.

But one prominent official has spoken out against the deal. The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Saturday that his force has “some concerns” about the draft.

Those points “are clearly in contradiction and violation of important red lines of Iran, especially regarding arms capabilities,“ he was quoted as saying. “They will never be acceptable to us.“ He did not elaborate.

Dracula wants your blood: for Transylvania music gig

BUCHAREST, Romania—A fanged Dracula with a blood bag hooked up to his arm is offering an unusual deal for tickets to a Romania music festival: Pay with blood.

“We have a bloody problem”, “Don’t suck, donate” and “Not only vampires need blood”, say campaign flyers encouraging blood giving for tickets.

The Untold Festival has teamed up with Romania’s national institute for blood transfusion INTS to provide free or discounted tickets in exchange for the blood, seeking to raise awareness in a country with one of Europe’s lowest levels of blood donors.

Less than 2% of Romanians donate blood each year, one of the lowest figures in Europe.

The festival, which will take place from July 30 to August 2 in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, will be headlined by DJs Avicii and David Guetta, among others.

People who had donated blood by Tuesday got festival tickets on the spot, while those who register receive discounts.

Up to 500 people are estimated to have “paid with blood” for their tickets, the organizers said in a statement.

“‘Pay with blood’ is a novel and brave initiative that draws attention to a real need for blood in Romania,“ Untold’s communications director Adrian Chereji said in the statement.

“We wanted to actively contribute to raising the number of donors and, at the same time, give fans a unique method to pay for their festival ticket.“

Organizers have said they expect as many as 300,000 people to attend the festival. A four-day ticket costs 309 lei ($76.35).

($1 = 4.0471 lei)

West Virginia Housing Development Fund Announce Lowest Home Mortgage Interest Rate in Fund History

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia Housing Development Fund today announced the lowest home mortgage interest rate in fund history. Qualifying West Virginia families are now eligible for a 30-year fixed rate loan below 2.81%.  Down payment and closing cost assistance loans are also available for those who qualify.

“Owning a home is the cornerstone of the American dream and this is a wonderful opportunity for those looking to buy a home in West Virginia,” Governor Tomblin said. “We’re excited about this fantastic rate, and we hope it gives hardworking West Virginians and their families a real chance to live that dream in the Mountain State.”

The historically low rate comes on the heels of the Huffington Post naming West Virginia the best state in the country for first-time homebuyers. The Huffington Post, one of the Internet’s highest traffic sites and the first digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize, specifically cited Housing Development Fund programs as a reason the state received this distinction.

“This will be the best mortgage rate in the Housing Development Fund’s history,” said Fund Acting Executive Director Erica Boggess. “We are extremely pleased with this interest rate and realize that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for qualifying West Virginia families who wish to purchase a home.”

This rate was achieved as a result of a $15 million bond issue by the Fund. The money allocated for this program will be used specifically to help low- to moderate-income buyers. Households comprised of up to two people can earn no more than $45,000 per year. Households comprised of three or more people can earn no more than $55,000 per year.

With low cost financing, down payment and closing cost assistance and homebuyer counseling, many West Virginia families may find they qualify to own a home. The funds for these low rate loans are limited and applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in the program should contact their Realtor, lending institution or the Fund for more information about how to apply for a loan. Visit the Fund’s website at for a list of participating lenders or call the Fund at 1.800.933.9843 for more information.

The West Virginia Housing Development Fund is a public body corporate and governmental instrumentality of the State of West Virginia established in 1969 to increase the supply of residential housing. To date, the Fund has issued more than $4.3 billion in tax-exempt bonds to finance more than 118,000 housing units. No tax dollars were utilized to provide this information. The West Virginia Housing Development Fund is an Equal Housing Opportunity Lender.

West Virigina Slipping in Terms of Poverty, Kids’ Well-Being

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – West Virginia’s children are faring worse, and the state’s ranking on key measures of caring for them has fallen, according to the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT report.

The annual survey found 27% of West Virginia children live below the federal poverty line, up from 15% during the lowest ebb of the Great Recession.

Margie Hale, executive director of West Virginia Kids Count, says too many working poor families have been left behind – even as the economy has turned around.

“There’s persistent poverty despite the economic recovery,“ says Hale. “We have 13,000 more children living in poverty. This recovery has passed them by.“

In terms of how well West Virginia kids are doing, the survey says the state’s overall ranking has fallen six spots to 43rd place. Hale says the key to helping children is supporting families as they try to reach economic security.

According to West Virginia KIDS COUNT, several proven policies help working families get out of poverty. Hale says more affordable child care and a state Earned Income Tax Credit would both help, as would paid sick leave and a higher minimum wage. She says it’s simply a matter of getting more resources into the hands of struggling parents.

“Most of the children in poverty live in families who are working, and they cannot make enough money,“ she says. “They have problems with food, they have problems with child care. All these solutions are designed to change that.“

Hale says these policies have worked in other places, in part because they’re designed to reward individuals who work, and make it easier for them to support their families while doing so.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

NewsWest Virginia

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Gilmer County Circuit Court Report

The Gilmer Free Press

On Monday, July 20, 2015 Chief Judge Richard A. Facemire heard cases in Gilmer County Circuit Court.

Four fugitives from justice waived extradition as follows:

1) Timothy McNair waived to return to the state of Virginia,

2) Donavon Benjamin waived to return to the state of Ohio,

3) Bennie Blackwell waived to return to the state of Ohio, and

4) Michael Walthall wavied to return to the state of Virginia.

All 4 fugitives were represented by Clinton Bischoff of Summersville.

Also Judge Facemire heard 7 juvenile cases and granted Stephanie Smarr the right to be released from her GPS in her criminal case.

Smarr was represented by Mr. Bischoff.

Later in the day Magistrate Skinner reported to Karen Elkin, Circuit Clerk that none of the 3 magistrate trials scheduled this week would need a jury.

Thereafter Ms. Elkin put a tape on for the jury recording system directing all petit/magistrate jurors to call back in September regarding future Circuit Court trials and released all of them from calling and/or serving this week.

West Virginia State Arts Agency Invites Public to Share Thoughts

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV –The Arts Section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts want to know what you think about the arts in your community.

The state arts agency and commission invite the public to complete a survey that also explores the services and support they deliver to arts communities across the state.

Information provided will help guide the Arts Section staff as it reviews current programs, plans upcoming activities and prepares annual reports to the governor, state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This confidential survey is available on the division’s website at

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:


In the recording, an officer attempts to drag 28-year-old Sandra Bland from her vehicle, saying, “I will light you up,“ as he holds his stun gun.


The candidate’s campaign isn’t shy about asking financial executives for donations, even as she promises to rein in their multimillion-dollar paychecks if she becomes president.


Lawmakers are debating judicial and banking reforms set as a requirement by other Eurozone countries for the nation’s third rescue package worth 85 billion euros ($93 billion).


Sentencing for James Holmes begins Wednesday and could be even more emotional and polarizing than the 11-week trial.


Joaquin “El Chapo” finds a changed drug-trafficking landscape, where old rivals have been vanquished and his cartel has seen bloody infighting.


It is butting heads with liberal streams of Judaism that dominate Jewish life in the U.S.- widening a rift that risks further alienating American Jews.


More than one in five sexually active teen girls use the emergency contraceptive - a dramatic increase that likely reflects that it’s easier now for them to buy it.


Some people are waiting for early kinks to be worked out and others, for an “aha moment.“


The investigation and court proceedings went on for nearly a decade, and involved issues regarding steroid use.


The author of “Ragtime” was the rare American writer to move gracefully between lives as engaged citizen and solitary inventor.

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Report: More than 1 in 4 WV children living in poverty

CHARLESTON, WV — A new report says more than one in four West Virginia children are living in poverty.

The annual KIDS Count report says the number of children living in poverty grew from 87,000 in 2008 to 100,000 in 2013, an increase of nearly 15%.

The report says 38% of children, or 144,000, were living in families whose parents lacked secure employment in 2013, compared to 32% in 2008.

Several other child well-being indicators improved during the same period. The death rate for children and teens declined from 36 per 100,000 to 34. The teen birth rate fell from 47 per 1,000 to 40.

Overall, the report ranks West Virginia 43rd for child well-being, down from 37th in 2014.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the report on Tuesday.

WVU Parkersburg aims to get more vets into farming

PARKERSBURG, WV — West Virginia University at Parkersburg is joining a statewide effort to bring more veterans into farming or a related agribusiness.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture says Parkersburg is the first college to participate in the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture project.

Started in 2009, the program is aimed at helping veterans feed themselves and their neighbors. Since then, the program has grown to more than 100 West Virginia veterans who are now farmers or involved in agribusiness.

Veterans and Warriors is already partnering with beekeepers and educational farms.

The idea behind the program is to ease the emotional stress of veterans through farming.

WVU Parkersburg has an agricultural program leading to a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree.

WV seeks to limit chronic wasting disease among deer

SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is taking steps to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease among the state’s deer population.

The division says it has broadened Eastern Panhandle restrictions on the baiting and artificial feeding of deer. Effective this month, the restrictions were extended to the following counties: Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral and Morgan.

Division biologists say supplemental feeding and baiting of deer increases the chance of disease transmission of chronic wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease affects the brains and nervous systems of deer and elk. There is no evidence to suggest that it poses a risk to humans or domestic animals.

The disease has been detected in 170 deer in Hampshire County and four in Hardy County.

Commission dismisses complaint against WV justice

CHARLESTON, WV - An ethics complaint against West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis has been dismissed.

A report by the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission says the complaint was baseless.

The report says the commission found no evidence to support a finding of probable cause that Davis violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The Supreme Court says Davis authorized the report’s release on Tuesday. The commission dismissed the complaint on May 22.

Bill Maloney of Morgantown had filed the complaint in April. His complaint alleged that Davis failed to timely disclose any potential conflict in a nursing home wrongful death case. The complaint also alleged that Davis didn’t recuse herself from hearing the case, saying her husband had sold his law firm’s airplane to one of the defendant’s lawyers.

CSX to discuss West Virginia oil train derailment cleanup

GLEN FERRIS, WV - CSX has invited the public to attend a meeting to discuss the cleanup of a February oil-train derailment in southern West Virginia.

The meeting is set for Tuesday evening at the Glen Ferris Inn.

On February 16, 27 cars of a CSX train’s 109 cars derailed during a snowstorm in Mount Carbon. The cause of the derailment hasn’t been released.

Crews have focused on removing crude oil at the site and preventing potential oil sheens on the Kanawha River.

Under a March consent order with Environmental Protection Agency, the railroad agreed to a long-term plan for cleaning up and restoring the area around the derailment.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Report: 22% of U.S. children live in poverty

Nearly one in four children is living in poverty in the United States, a higher percentage compared to the poverty rate during the Great Recession in the late 2000s, according to a new report by a child advocacy group.

About 22% of Americans kids, 18.7 million, lived in low-income households in 2013, a four% increase since 2008, the Annie E. Casey Foundation said in a report released on Tuesday.

Data for 2014 are not yet available, but the report anticipates that the child poverty rate remains at an “unacceptably high level.”

“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery,“ said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation.

“While we’ve seen an increase in employment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and cannot support even basic family expenses. Far too many families are still struggling to provide for the day-to-day needs of their children, notably for the 18.7 million kids who are living in poverty. We can and must do better: we can make policy choices to lift more families into economic stability,“ McCarthy said.

African American, American Indian and Hispanic children were more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white children, the report said.

Nearly a third of children are living in families where no parent has full-time employment, the foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported.

Poverty rates were the most severe in Nevada, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi.

“The fact that it’s happening is disturbing on lots of levels,” said Laura Speer, the associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the foundation. “Those kids often don’t have the access to the things they need to thrive.”

The foundation says its mission is to help low-income children in the U.S. by providing grants and advocating for policies that promote economic opportunity.

Citibank ordered to pay $768M for ‘deceptive’ practices

WASHINGTON, DC—Citibank must pay $768 million for deceptively selling debt protection and credit monitoring services to credit card customers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday.

The CFPB said Citibank’s “deceptive” and illegal practices affected some 8.8 million customer accounts between 2000 and 2013.

Citibank telemarketers were found to have sold add-on products to customers often without explaining the full costs or benefits of the products. These add-on products included credit monitoring and debt protection, which eliminates or delays payments on credit card accounts in the case of certain life events like losing a job, hospitalization or divorce.

In some cases, telemarketers told customers they had a free 30-day trial, but still charged a fee, or didn’t explain when a customer had to cancel the service before being assessed a fee. In other cases, Citibank offered credit monitoring, but failed to provide the service as explained.

“We continue to uncover illegal credit card add-on practices that are costing unknowing consumers millions of dollars,“ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “In our four years, this is the tenth action we’ve taken against companies in this space for deceiving consumers. We will remain on the lookout for similar conduct and will address it as we find it.“

The CFPB ordered Citibank to pay $479 million to about 4.8 million customer accounts for deceptive marketing practices, $196 million to 2.2 million accounts enrolled in credit monitoring services and $23.8 million to 1.8 million customers who paid unnecessary expedited payment fees. Additionally, Citibank must pay a $35 million penalty to the CFPB, as well as a $35 million fee to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

Citi issued a statement saying it “cooperated fully with the CFPB and OCC and has taken extensive steps to address each issue that affected customers.

“Citi previously discontinued sales of the products included in the agreements, which include credit-monitoring and debt-protection products and wallet protection services, and no longer charges expedited pay-by-phone fees.“

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

North Korea rejects Iran-style nuclear deal, citing threats

SEOUL, North Korea —North Korea officially rejected an Iran-style nuclear deal on Tuesday citing U.S. threats, but viewed the development as a positive for Tehran.

A spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry made the remarks on state television KCNA on Tuesday, according to South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun. It is the first official statement from Pyongyang on the historic deal that is to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

North Korea said it is “different from Iran” because unlike Iran its nuclear weapons program is “not up for bargain.“

“We do not have any interest at all on dialogue for unilaterally freezing or giving up our nukes,“ Pyongyang’s spokesman said on KCNA, The Guardian reported.

“We are clearly a nuclear power, and nuclear powers have their own interests.“

North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear weapons program led to the suspension of the six-party talks on denuclearization in 2009, and Pyongyang has become increasingly isolated.

But North Korea views the Iran nuclear deal as a positive for Tehran, the spokesman said on Tuesday.

Iran, he said, made a long-term effort to “achieve results.“ Iran’s sovereign right to nuclear activities has been recognized, but the state also wanted to bring an end to economic sanctions imposed upon the state, according to Pyongyang.

“We are a nuclear state, in name and in reality, and therefore have an understanding of other nuclear states,“ the spokesman said, adding North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “not up for bargain.“

North Korea said Washington has threatened Pyongyang for half a century with nuclear weapons, and its own program is needed for its “independence and survival.“

World mayors at Vatican urge ‘bold climate agreement’

VATICAN CITY — Mayors from around the world declared Tuesday that climate change is real, man-made and must be stopped as a matter of moral imperative, gathering at the Vatican to announce new measures to fight global warming and bask in Pope Francis’ ecological star power.

The Vatican invited the 60 mayors to a two-day conference to keep up pressure on world leaders ahead of U.N. climate negotiations in Paris later this year. The meeting also aimed to promote Francis’ environment encyclical, which denounced what he calls a fossil fuel-based world economy that exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.

One by one, the mayors lined up to sign a final declaration stating that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.“

Francis told the gathering that he had “a lot of hope” that the Paris negotiations would succeed, but also warned the mayors: “You are the conscience of humanity.“

Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human emissions. Mayor after mayor made an individual plea Tuesday for the world to change its ways.

Drawing rousing applause, California Governor Jerry Brown denounced global warming deniers who he said were “bamboozling” the public and politicians with false information to persuade them that the world isn’t getting warmer. California has enacted the toughest greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America.

“We have a very powerful opposition that, at least in my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,“ said Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for the Big Apple — committing the city to reducing its emissions 40% by 2030 — and urged other cities to follow suit.

“The Paris summit is just months away,“ de Blasio said. “We need to see it as the finish line of a sprint, and take every local action we can in the coming months to maximize the chance that our national governments will act boldly.“

De Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of world cities that have committed to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 or sooner.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced new measures of his own, saying the city that takes its name from the pope’s nature-loving namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, would transition its municipal fleet of fire trucks, buses and trucks from petroleum diesel to renewable energy sources by the end of the year.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngard said the Paris climate talks in December must take fossil fuels off the table and focus instead on renewable energy sources.

“Climate negotiators must dare to push boundaries and exclude fossil fuels as an option and reward solutions that are long-term sustainable and renewable,“ she said.

Stockholm is one of the world’s leaders in using renewable energy sources, with 75% of the city’s public transport network running on renewable energy. Wanngard’s goal is to make the Swedish capital fossil fuel-free by 2040.

The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was the afternoon audience with Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.

Francis’ other main priority has been to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Vatican conference is aimed at showing how both are related: The exploitation of the Earth and its most vulnerable people, with global warming often responsible for creating “environmental refugees” forced to flee homes because of drought or other climate-induced natural disasters.

Francis told the gathering that while he had high hopes about the Paris climate negotiations, he also wanted the United Nations to focus more on human trafficking.

“The United Nations has to deal with this,“ he said.

The Vatican is angling for the U.N.‘s new Sustainable Development Goals, to be finalized in September, to make a solid reference to the problems of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Day 2 of the Vatican conference was to deal specifically with the development goals.

“Addressing both of these phenomenon, climate change and modern slavery, is a herculean task for us as city administrators,“ said Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India.

Chammany detailed how years of global warming-induced drought in India was pushing impoverished farmers into cities, making them ripe for the “dark dungeons of slavery” and exploitation.

The conference got off to a sobering start by hearing from two Mexican women who were victims of modern-day slavery.

Ana Laura Peres Jaimes showed the mayors photos of some of the 600 scars she suffered as an indentured servant, forced to iron for hours a day without food, water or even a bathroom. She said she had to urinate in a plastic bag.

Karla Jacinto, a 22-year-old mother of two, told how she was forced into prostitution at the age of 12, servicing more than 30 men a day for the next four years until she was rescued.

“I didn’t think I was worth anything. I thought I was just an object that was used and thrown away,“ she told the hushed audience hall.

Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, also offered a personal story that brought home the reality of slavery.

“At the time of my birth, I was born into a society in Birmingham, Alabama, that existed as a close cousin of slavery called segregation,“ said Bell, who is African-American. “Segregation was designed to exploit individuals and groups based on race and race alone. It was for the economic purpose of cheap labor. It was to control society. It was to control human beings.“

The conference’s final declaration calls modern-day slavery a crime against humanity and commits signatories to developing resettlement and reintegration programs “that avoid involuntary repatriation of trafficked persons.“

On climate, the conference’s final declaration calls for financial incentives to transition economies from using fossil fuels to low-carbon and renewable energies and to shift public financing away from the military to “urgent investments” in sustainable development, with wealthy countries helping poorer ones.

And it says political leaders have a “special responsibility” at the Paris talks to approve a “bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives.“

GCPSD Boil Water Advisory Lifted - Sand Fork Area

The Gilmer Free Press

07.21.15:The Gilmer County PSD has lifted the Boil Water Advisory on the Sand Fork line starting at the Marge Burke Bridge.  This includes Sand Fork, Joes Run, Sliding and Dusk Camp.

Gilmer County Public Service District

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