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West Virginia struggles with road conditions

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia leaders aren’t thrilled by suggestions to raise taxes, tolls and fees to fix the state’s roughed-up roads, particularly as they approach a feisty election year.

But with federal highways cash still running dry, some top officials won’t completely rule out increases for the next legislative session starting in January.

“We have to consider everything,” said Senate President Bill Cole, a Mercer County auto dealer and the top Republican candidate for governor. “To just make some blanket statement that, ‘No that’s off the table,’ I learned in business a long time ago: Never say never. Never is a long, long time.”

For West Virginia, transportation woes seem to be less about the gridlock gripping metro areas nationwide and more about structural complaints.

According to U.S. Census data from 2013, workers in the Huntington metro area take 23.8 minutes to commute to work, while Charleston metro commuters averaged a 23.1-minute trip. The national average was 25.8 minutes.

The Martinsburg-Hagerstown, Maryland metro area topped the national commute time average by about four minutes. In that area, however, more than 1 in 5 workers are traveling out of state to their jobs, including Washington commuters. Workers who carpooled averaged a 38.2-minute ride, while those hopping a train or other public transportation were on it for 76.8 minutes on average.

Last month, the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways assembled by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin dealt what could be an unsavory set of revenue-raising suggestions before a testy election next year.

House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, cautioned against raising more money.
“It would be difficult for the people of our state to bear additional tax burdens, so we need to make road funding a priority within our budget and work toward creative solutions,” Armstead said.

The governor’s panel suggested that tolls continue on the 88-mile turnpike that runs through four southern counties instead of disappearing in 2019 as scheduled.

It also calls for toll increases of 10% to 25% effective July 2016, depending on the amount of bonds sold, while rates for passenger cars with E-ZPass accounts would remain unchanged for five years. Turnpike drivers now pay $2 at each booth, and commercial vehicles pay $6.75.

The report suggests hikes to other taxes on drivers, several of which haven’t been raised in decades. It also calls for a 50-cent increase to the cigarette tax.

Altogether, the commission called for $419.8 million more each year in the state road fund. That’s still short of the extra $1.7 billion annually the report says could be needed to maintain and expand the highway system.

“It’s going to take a buy-in from both parties,” said Tomblin, a Democrat who is hitting his two-term limit in office. “It’s going to take a buy-in from both houses of the Legislature.”

Cole and Armstead said the Republican-led Legislature is going to comb through a new audit of the Division of Highways it ordered this year. First and foremost, lawmakers are going to look for misuse or abuse of taxpayer money to free up cash for roads, he said.

However, road and infrastructure needs are too critical to slam the door immediately on any option, Cole said.

The Blue Ribbon report said more than one-third of West Virginia’s major roads are either in poor or mediocre condition. About 35% of 7,000 bridges need repair, improvement or replacement.

Driving on rough roads costs state motorists an extra $400 million annually, or $333 a year per driver. That accounts for faster vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, using more gas and tire wear.


Vietnam Memorial Wall replica coming to Point Pleasant Regatta

POINT PLEASANT, WV - The West Virginia Vietnam Memorial Wall will be on display at the Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, from July 2 through July 5, during the Point Pleasant Regatta.

The wall includes the names of West Virginians who were killed in action, were prisoners of war or are listed as still missing in action during the Vietnam War. The wall includes the names of more than 732 West Virginians. West Virginia had the highest casualty rate in the nation during the Vietnam War.

The wall will be open 24 hours while on display, and there is no charge to view it.

A ceremony is planned for 1 PM Saturday, July 04, at the Riverfront Park with a 21-gun salute, taps and speaker WV Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason.


Fumich’s grueling race brings in $85,000

CLARKSBURG WV — Pushing his body as far as it could go, Frank Fumich’s race to raise awareness and money for the family of WVU student Ryan Diviney by biking more than 3,000 miles from coast-to-coast ended Saturday afternoon about 500 miles short of his goal.

But that didn’t matter to those Fumich inspired during the past 11 days. About 100 people waited for him outside Dave’s T&L Hot Dogs on Old U.S. Route 50. They held signs, sang songs, chanted his name and rang a cowbell in honor of his difficult journey. They also had hot dogs waiting for him.

It was a hero’s welcome upon his return to Clarksburg, as his awareness campaign had raised more than $85,000 for the Diviney family. Fumich hugged his grandmother and sister, shook hands with small children, and when he finally, mercifully stepped off his bike for the final time, he embraced Ryan’s father Ken Diviney.

“Anybody can do anything if your motivation is great enough, and I certainly went further then I would have had it not been for everyone’s help,” Fumich said.

The Race Across America cyclist rode more than 2,500 miles from Oceanside, Calif., to Chilicothe, Ohio, where he hit his 43rd time station. Soon after, Frank conceded what his body had been telling him for days. Between the limitless rides, incomprehensible sleep deprivation, and even occasional hallucination, Frank’s body had finally given out.

“I want to thank everybody for all the thousands of messages on Facebook and e-mails and following,” Fumich said. “I had no idea it was going to be that huge, and I felt the people behind me.”

So Fumich decided to end his race early and continued biking along U.S. Route 50 with his team in tow until he finally arrived in Clarksburg.

Fumich, not a professional cyclist by trade, pushed his body beyond what most would consider reasonable. At times, he would ride for 27 consecutive hours only to pause for an hour’s sleep. But it was all for a singular purpose: to raise awareness and money for former WVU student Ryan Diviney.

“I biked every night straight through the night to try to make the time,” Fumich said. “I did it for Ken and Ryan.”

Fumich was inspired to raise money for the Divineys after hearing of the tragedy six years prior. It had been a late night in November when a seemingly trivial dispute over baseball nearly ended Ryan’s life. Like Ryan, Fumich attended West Virginia University while hailing from northern Virginia. Something about the Divineys’ plight struck a chord with him.

“What Frank has done is so substantial and so difficult and so noteworthy that it brings both money and recognition to my son,” said Ken Diviney. “And it keeps my boy, Ryan Diviney, relevant.”

Nearly six years after Diviney’s story shocked the state, Fumich still drew motivation. During the final harrowing days where Fumich was unsure how much more punishment his body could take, his teammates began riding behind him and reading off donations and messages from supporters.

“Maybe the last three nights they’d get behind me and on a loud speaker read the donation site, the amount of money people donated, and the message they gave to me just to keep me going because it was so hard going,” Fumich said.

Before he ever raced, Fumich, having never met the Diviney’s before, contacted Ken Diviney with a wild idea–he would bike across the country in what is officially the “World’s Toughest Bike Race” and raise money and awareness for Ryan. Admittedly, Ken was skeptical at first. But then Fumich and Ken met in person.

“I didn’t put much stock in it because sometimes people are over-ambitious,” Diviney said. “But then he called me again and persisted and I looked into it, and I though sure enough this is a guy who might be able to pull something like this off.”

After they met, Fumich saw first-hand the dedication Ken offered in the care of his son, now in a vegetative state after the assault. Both men knew they could commit to this intrepid goal of racing across America. Ken knew Fumich was serious, and Fumich knew he’d have to dig deep down to have any chance at finishing a race that sees only a small portion of its participants ever reach Annapolis within the 12-day time frame.

“He said it’ll motivate it him through the race,” Ken Diviney said. “Every now and then he said ‘it’s for Ryan’ and not for him, but today is for him.”

Helping people isn’t particularly out-of-character for Fumich. After the Boston Marathon bombings, he similarly went to the aid of a family in need in New England.

“It’s just his character,” said Fumich’s sister, Sheila Liljenquist. “He is always helping somebody.”

Though Fumich’s ride ended with a “DNF” next to his name on the leaderboard, he knew he assisted a family and inspired an untold amount of people.

“If you combine your passion for helping others you can really make a difference in the world,” he said..

Fumich didn’t rule out another ride but he admitted it would take “a lot” to get him back on the bike for another go at the Race Across America–most notably the unlikely approval of his wife.

At the very least, after 11 grueling days and topping well over 200 hours on a bicycle in that span, he can finally enjoy one of those hot dogs.


MANCHIN STATEMENT ON FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD’S PASSING

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement on the five-year anniversary of Senator Robert C. Byrd’s death.

“It is hard to believe it has been five years since we lost our beloved statesman, Senator Robert C. Byrd. Throughout his life of service, he was a force in the United States Senate, a champion of our Constitution and a proud West Virginian, who devoted himself to his family, his state and his country. His contributions and dedication to our state and nation are truly unparalleled, and his influence stretched far beyond the Capitol building and the mountains of West Virginia. Although his shoes can never be filled, it has given me great honor to follow in his footsteps in the United States Senate. We miss him dearly, and today, may we all honor the legacy of Robert C. Byrd and reflect on his extraordinary life and memory.”


WV State Police make changes to cover Nicholas County

BECKLEY, WV — Law enforcement manpower will take a hit July 1 in Nicholas County. The cuts enacted in the 2015-16 fiscal year budget take hold then and about seven deputies will be cut from the county sheriff’s department.

The West Virginia State Police learned of the cuts three months ago and wasted no time filling the gaps. Troopers have been working an adjusted schedule in the county and have already increased their presence and enforcement in the county ahead of the anticipated loss.

“Without getting into the specifics, what we’ve done is combined the resources of the Summersville Detachment and the Richwood Detachment,” said Captain Brad Mankins, Area Commander. “In the past those detachments would work their area. We’ve combined them to where they’re now communicating and responding in both parts of the county.”

There were several reasons the two detachments were separate for many years. The main reason was the difficulty in maintaining radio communication in the rugged terrain. That’s no longer a problem according to Mankins.

“With the topography up there, there would be places in the county where troopers in Summersville were unable to communicate with troopers in Richwood,” he said. “That’s no longer an issue, we’re able to take care of that. Instead of running a detachment based area, we’ve regionalized it.”

The effort so far has received positive reviews. The Nicholas County Commission recently penned a glowing letter which praised the state police work there to Colonel Jay Smithers.

There’s no real increase in crime anticipated according to Mankins, but they want to make sure there is plenty of help respond in an emergency and to back up one another when it’s necessary.

“Safety of our troopers is always a concern,” said Mankins. “The shifts are about the same, it’s just putting people in different places and getting away from the customary hours of 8-4 and 4-midnight. We’ve given the guys a little bit more freedom on what hours to be out to get some extended coverage.”

The troopers will be available anywhere in the county 24/7 according to Mankins.

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

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


WHOSE CAPTURE ENDS EXHAUSTIVE MANHUNT

Convicted murderer David Sweat is shot and taken into custody in northern New York, days after police kill his accomplice and three weeks after the two escaped prison.


GAY PRIDE PARADES CELEBRATE SUPREME COURT RULING

Hundreds of thousands of people pack pride events from New York City to San Francisco, reveling in the U.S. high court’s endorsement of gay marriage.


GREECE’S BANKS REMAIN CLOSED AS ECONOMIC CRISIS DEEPENS

The developments throw into question Greece’s financial future and continued membership in the 19-nation shared euro currency - and even the European Union.


UNMANNED SPACEX ROCKET BREAKS APART AFTER LAUNCH

The rocket was set to resupply the International Space Station and it’s the third cargo mission to fail in eight months.


CONFEDERATE SYMBOLS TOPPLE, TEETER ACROSS THE SOUTH

The June 17 church massacre in Charleston, SC, by a self-described white supremacist leads states around the region to take down rebel flags, but some ask whether it’s a sign of real social change.


WHY IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS WILL GO PAST JUNE 30 TARGET DATE

Negotiators remain apart on issues including how much access Tehran should give to U.N. experts who would monitor compliance if a deal is reached to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons.


SCIENTISTS QUESTION WHY MORE WOMEN THAN MEN HAVE ALZHEIMER’S

One worrisome hint is that research shows a notorious Alzheimer’s-related gene has a bigger impact on women than men.


REPORT: WORLD JEWISH POPULATION NEARS PRE-HOLOCAUST LEVEL

There are currently 14.2 million Jews in the world, and another 2 million who identify as partly Jewish, The Jewish People Policy Institute says.


WHAT ADVICE WHITEY BULGER GIVES TO TEENS

“If you want to make crime pay - `Go to Law School,‘“ the former crime boss, now serving two life sentences, instructs three high school girls who wrote to him for a history project.


POLL: AMERICANS SHOW STRONG SUPPORT FOR HOME OLYMPICS

Nearly nine of 10 Americans - 89% - support a bid to host the Olympics somewhere in the United States, according to an AP-GfK survey.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

High court says gov’t seizure of raisins is unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court ruled last week that the government can’t force raisin farmers to give up part of their annual crop for less than it’s worth, a victory for conservative groups that hailed the decision as a win for private property rights.

The justices ruled 8-1 that a 1940s-era program born out of the Great Depression is unconstitutional because it allows federal officials to seize personal property from farmers without fully compensating them, even though the goal is to benefit farmers by stabilizing market prices.

The court sided with California farmers Marvin and Laura Horne, who claimed they were losing money under a program they called outdated and ineffective. They had been fined $695,000 for trying to get around it.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the government must pay “just compensation” when it takes personal goods, just as when it takes land away.

Roberts rejected the government’s argument that the Hornes voluntarily chose to participate in the raisin market and have the option of growing different crops if they don’t like it.

“‘Let them sell wine’ is probably not much more comforting to the raisin growers than similar retorts have been to others throughout history,“ Roberts said. “Property rights cannot be so easily manipulated.“

The case was considered one of the most important property disputes to reach the high court since 2005, when the justices ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could use the power of eminent domain to hand private homes or businesses to developers to help stimulate economic improvement. That case sparked a backlash in many states and led more than 40 state legislatures to pass laws protecting property rights.

By contrast, last week’s ruling in the raisin case was seen as a decisive win for property-rights advocates seeking to limit government power.

“The decision confirms what should be obvious: the government cannot come and take your personal property without compensation, whether raisins or other property, on the ground that the taking is for your own good,“ said J. David Breemer, attorney for the Pacific Law Foundation, a conservative group that backed the Hornes.

The program was authorized by a 1937 law that allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep prices for raisins and other crops steady by helping to manage supply. A 1949 marketing order allowed farmers to form a committee that decides how much of the raisin crop handlers must turn over to the government each year.

These raisins would be placed into a reserve pool to be sold outside the open market, used for the school lunch program or given away to charities and foreign governments. Any profits from these reserve sales would go toward funding the committee and anything left over went back to the farmers.

The Hornes refused to participate in the program in 2003, when farmers were required to give up 47% of their crop but received far less in return than their costs of production. They also refused to cooperate in 2004, when other farmers gave up 30% of the crop in 2004 and were paid nothing.

The Hornes’ lawyer, John O’Quinn, called the ruling “a personal vindication” for the couple and “an important win for personal liberty.“

Raisin prices have been stable recently, and farmers have not been ordered to put crops in reserve since 2010.

Only a small number of other crops are regulated in the same way, though federal officials say most programs are not active. Those include California dried prunes, California dates, California almonds, tart cherries, walnuts and spearmint oil.

A USDA spokesman said agency officials were reviewing the ruling and had no immediate comment.

Roberts said the government could have restricted raisin sales by limiting production, which is how the vast majority of crops programs work.

In a separate opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer agreed that the Hornes were entitled to be properly paid for their crops, but he said the case should be sent back to a lower court to decide whether they would have been owed any money had they complied with the program.

Breyer’s separate opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Justice Clarence Thomas took issue with Breyer’s point and wrote separately to say that sending the case back to figure out compensation “in this case would be a fruitless exercise.“

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only dissenter. She said the program did not deprive the Hornes of all property rights, it just limited the amount of potential income they could earn from it.


MANCHIN STATEMENT ON SUPREME COURT’S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULING

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.

“America is a nation of laws, and we must respect and abide by the Supreme Court’s decision.”


Man steals hearse with body inside from Georgia hospital

ATLANTA, GA—Police on Sunday said they apprehended a man accused of carjacking and crashing a hearse containing a dead body.

The suspect drove the Ford Flex hearse from Willie A. Watkins Funeral home off a loading dock at Grady Hospital in Atlanta after workers moved a corpse from the hospital’s morgue to the vehicle.

According to police, the suspect, who has not been named, damaged the vehicle as he rammed the morgue entrance gate before eventually abandoning the hearse and carjacking another Ford Explorer a few blocks away.

Police located the suspect and took him into custody. They say he did not show a firearm when stealing the hearse.

Similar incidents played out late last year. In December, a man who police suspected was mentally ill stole a hearse containing a casket and body from outside a Baptist church in Los Angeles, and the previous month, a 49-year-old man with dementia who had wandered from a nearby nursing home stole a hearse that held the body of a human rights lawyer in Sydney, Australia.

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

P5+1 and Iran Have Settled Framework for Sanctions Relief Timing, Says Iranian Sources

Contrary to public posturing on the timing and pace of sanctions relief, a framework for handling this critical matter of the nuclear deal has been resolved, according to Iranian sources.

Iranian officials have on numerous occasions insisted that sanctions relief must come immediately upon the signing of an agreement. This has been at direct odds with the position of the U.S. government and its allies, who insist that relief only can come after Iran has taken numerous steps limiting its nuclear activities.

As often times is the case in diplomacy, the solution was found in a combination of a play with words and practical measures.

This is exactly what the diplomats did to reconcile the Iranian insistence on front loaded sanctions relief and the Western position of relief being provided only after the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iranian steps to curtail its nuclear program.

According to Iranian sources, the agreement is divided into three phases. The initial phase—called “adoption of agreement”—takes places as the two sides agree on a final deal. This phase will kick in in the next few days—if a deal is reached.

The next phase—the operationalization of the agreement—will begin once the domestic political processes of various parties have conclusively approved the agreement. This phase has been added primarily as a result of the US Congress passing the Corker bill, in which the American legislature gave itself the right to review and vote on the nuclear deal.

The timing of the second phase is directly related to the duration of the Congressional review process. If the two sides come to an agreement prior to July 10, the review process is set at 30 calendar days, in addition to 22 calendar days for Congress to pass a resolution to accept or reject the deal and for the President to use his veto, if need be. If the two sides fail to reach a deal by July 10, the Congressional review process increases to 60 calendar days.

While other states in the negotiations may also initiate some form of internal review and approval process, none of them are expected to take as long as the Congressional review. As such, the U.S. congress has significantly delayed the implementation of a presumptive deal.

Once the deal has survived the Congressional review—whether through a resolution of affirmation or the failure to pass a resolution of rejection—the Iranians will begin implementing the first steps of their commitments after the US side has provided iron clad guarantees that sanctions will be lifted. This is phase III. The initiation of the implementation of their end of the deal must then be verified by the IAEA, after which the US and its allies will begin relieving sanctions. It is at this point that the deal will be “signed,“ enabling the Iranian demand for sanctions relief to occur upon signing of the deal to be upheld.

The exact timing of this schedule depends on the date the deal is adopted, the duration of the Congressional review and the time it takes for Iran to implement the first steps of the agreement. But at best it will begin a few months after the adoption of the deal. This is reflected by President Hassan Rouhani’s statement earlier in June that he expected relief from sanctions within a “couple of months” after an agreement is reached.

While agreement on these principles of the process is a very important step forward, some question marks remain. What kind of a binding commitment will the U.S. and its allies make to reciprocate Iranian implementation of the deal, as the first steps taken will be Iranian? At what point will the UN Security Council adopt a resolution that affirms the deal?

While these are important details that must be settled, it is more important that the framework for the process has been agreed upon.


China issues report attacking U.S. human rights record

China accused the United States on Friday of being “haunted by spreading guns” and racial discrimination, in its annual tit-for-tat rebuttal to U.S. criticism of China’s human rights record.

In a lengthy report carried by the official Xinhua news agency, China’s State Council Information Office said the United States “violated human rights in other countries in a more brazen manner, and was given more ‘red cards’ in the international human rights field”.

“The U.S. was haunted by spreading guns and frequent occurrence of violent crimes, which threatened citizens’ civil rights,” the report said.

The China section of the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights conditions globally, released on Thursday, said that “repression and coercion were routine” against activists, ethnic minorities and law firms that took on sensitive cases.

Human rights have long been a source of tension between the world’s two largest economies, especially since 1989, when the U.S. imposed sanctions on China after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

While senior leaders periodically promise China’s citizens democracy and human rights, the last two years under President Xi Jinping’s administration have been marked by a sweeping crackdown on dissidents and activists.

China has long rejected criticism of its rights’ record, saying providing food, clothing, housing and economic growth are far more relevant for developing countries, pointing to its success at lifting millions out of poverty.

The State Department report came in the same week that the United States and China held three days of high-level talks in Washington DC.

The Chinese report, which was mostly compiled from U.S. media articles, said “racial discrimination has been a chronic problem in the U.S. human rights record”, adding that the United States suppressed the voting rights of minorities.

It cited a USA Today report that said preliminary exit polls showed that voters of African origins accounted for 12% in the 2014 midterm election, down from 13% in the 2012 presidential election.

“In 2014, multiple cases of arbitrary police killing of African Americans have sparked huge waves of protests, casting doubts on the racial ‘equality’ in the U.S. and giving rise to racial hatred factors,” the report said.

The report also criticised the U.S. for conducting surveillance on world leaders and civilians and for allowing a few interest groups to influence the government’s decision-making.

Groups Want Congress To Stop Net Neutrality “Sneak Attack”

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – More than 60 civil rights and public interest groups have sent a letter urging Congress to protect the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to keep the Internet open.

They’re protesting a rider attached to a must-pass government-funding package.

Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy for the open media group Free Press, says the provisions, buried inside a spending bill 150 pages long, would take away money the FCC needs to enforce net neutrality rules.

“This is one of the more sneaky ways to do it, is to actually slip a couple lines of language into a budget appropriations bill,“ he states.

Advocates claim that by eliminating the FCC’s ability to protect net neutrality, the appropriations bill would have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights and the economy.

The American Library Association, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation were among the groups sending the letter.

In February, the FCC responded to nearly 4 million public comments with a decision to protect the fundamental openness of the Internet – no fast lanes for corporations and slow lanes for average citizens.

Karr says since the ruling, an entrenched phone and cable lobby has worked to punish the FCC in the courts and now in Congress.

“The public, on the issue of net neutrality, has been overwhelmingly in favor of open Internet protections,” he stresses. “So we’re seeing the backlash of that decision.“

Karr adds that the funding package is inching closer to a vote before the full House, but there’s still time for members to remove the provisions.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

FirstEnergy crews prepare for inclement weather, outages that follow

CLARKSBURG, WV — Summer storms continue to crop up–making power outages a regular occurrence this time of year.

First Energy Spokesman Todd Myers said it may have started a little earlier this year, but that these persistent storms require their attention.

“It just seems to be the weather pattern that we’ve been in lately where we get this cold fronts coming through and some fairly significant thunderstorms are coming through and causing significant damage,” he said.

As we delve deeper into the summer months, the storms are going to be more frequent. On days of bad storms, like this past Father’s Day, crews from Mon Power often work 16 hour days.

“We do work around the clock to get this outages repaired,” said Myers.

Myers said they’re already preparing for the possibility of further inclement weather creating outages on Thursday.

“It’s something that we contend with, and we’ll work around the clock and address it,” he said.

The biggest concern is always with the distribution network–power lines that could be hit by trees after heavy winds. Mon Power is spending $72 million in 2014 on tree trimming.

“We do that precisely for this kind of weather,” Myers said. “We cannot prevent some outages from occurring. It just won’t happen unless we cut such a wide strip of vegetation and trees that nothing can possibly come in contact with the line, and we can’t do that.”

Another concern is heavy saturation of rain. Myers said those trees become fodder for the wind when they’ve dealt with heavy rain.

“It doesn’t take much wind–and we’re going wind with these storms–to begin to push over trees when their roots are all saturated and everything’s a swampy marsh,” he said.

Myers said that he feels fortunate that the storms haven’t been out-of-the-ordinary–citing the damage caused by the derecho during the summer of 2012.

“What we’re having right now–even though it’s keeping us busy and unfortunately it’s inconvenient to customers–we know that,” he said. “But these are, what I would call your typical garden variety storms that we experience in the summer time.”


Former High School teacher convicted

MARTINSBURG, WV —A former Hedgesville High School teacher faces more than a decade in prison after a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing a student at the school after a six-day trial.

A jury found 31-year-old Erin Thomas guilty of one count of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust.

He was found not guilty of four other counts of sexual abuse by person in a position of trust and not guilty of third-degree sexual assault.

A single count of second-degree sexual assault was dismissed by the prosecution prior to the trial.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones tells The Herald Mail Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced August 21.

He faces not less than 10 nor more than 20 years in prison.

Thomas, who was placed on administrative leave without pay last summer, was terminated September 30 by the Berkeley County Board of Education.


FBI to investigate WV inmate’s death at hospital

BLUEFIELD, WV - The FBI plans to investigate the death of a Mercer County woman who died at a Charleston hospital several days after being briefly held at the Bluefield City Jail.

Supervisory Special Agent Chris Courtright said there’s no timeline for when the investigation will end.

Bluefield resident Connie Hambrick was arrested by police June 04 on an outstanding warrant from Tazewell County, Virginia. That night, she complained about a bad headache and was taken by to Bluefield Regional Medical Center. Hospital personnel told police Hambrick had a stroke and needed to be transferred to another hospital. She was taken to the Charleston Area Medical Center the next day and died June 17. The cause of death is under investigation.


WVU to pay nearly $1 million in attorney’s fees

MORGANTOWN, WV - West Virginia University will pay West Virginia Radio Corp. nearly $1 million for a partial reimbursement of attorney fees related to a recently settled media rights lawsuit.

WVU officials released the settlement agreement in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

As part of the agreement, WVU will pay WVRC about $937,000 as partial reimbursement for attorney fees and costs associated with the case.

The settlement also bans either side from commenting on the case for five years.

In 2013, WVRC filed a lawsuit against WVU, the WVU Foundation and several individual defendants. The lawsuit alleged violations of procurement rules for the awarding of university media rights and the purchasing of scoreboards for Milan Puskar Stadium and the Coliseum.


West Virginia leaders don’t love tax and toll hikes for roads, but some won’t rule them out

CHARLESTON, WV - Entering an election year, state officials aren’t thrilled by suggestions to raise taxes, tolls and fees for roads.

As federal money keeps fizzling, some aren’t dismissing the idea.

West Virginia’s problems appear to be about upkeep, not necessarily congestion.

U.S. Census data from 2013 shows Charleston and Huntington metro areas had commute times about two minutes lower than the national average, almost 26 minutes. The Martinsburg-Hagerstown, Maryland, area exceeds the average by four minutes but includes Washington commuters.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s highways commission suggests adding $419.8 million for roads annually, including tax, toll and fee increases.

Senate President Bill Cole, the top Republican candidate for governor, said everything needs consideration but focus should be on cutting wasteful spending.

Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead expressed concern about raising taxes.


Police: WV woman, son beat man who didn’t pay bill

BECKLEY, WV - A Wyoming County woman and her son have been arrested after police say they beat a man who had refused to pay his full utility bill.

The 39-year-old Anita Gail Cecil and 20-year-old Christopher Cecil were arrested and charged with battery.

Police say Anita Cecil attacked the victim in his vehicle after he told Covel Water Works owner Pete McBride he wasn’t paying his bills because service had been interrupted. McBride is Anita Cecil’s father.

The complaint says Cecil and her son then followed the victim home and began hitting him.

McBride was not charged.

Documents show the Cecils were taken to Southern Regional Jail, but have since posted bond.

It is not clear if they have an attorney.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Colorado man wakes to find black bear nibbling ankle

DENVER, CO —A resident of a Colorado mountain town woke from a nap on his deck to find a black bear nibbling his ankle, but later rejected a request by wildlife officials to put a trap on his property, a local newspaper reported.

Peter Rizzuto, 77, told The Aspen Times he thought at first the creature was a large dog. He said last week’s encounter was very brief, and the skin on his ankle was not broken.

Rizzuto contacted the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department the following day, but then declined to place a bear trap in his backyard in the ski resort of Snowmass, near Aspen.

“I’m worried it might trap the wrong bear,“ Rizzuto said.

A parks and wildlife spokesman, Mike Porras, told the newspaper that the bear had not returned since last Wednesday’s incident, but it was likely that it would.

“If it is walking up to humans and doing this, it would not be a big surprise if it did it again,“ Porras said.

Colorado is home to about 12,000 black bears. Attacks on people are rare, but typically happen when hungry bears lose their fear of humans, wildlife authorities say.

Porras said Rizzuto’s small yard is open, and that children come and go in the area. He said the department might lay a trap on a nearby public area if one is available.

“No one wants to put a bear down,“ Porras said. “But when a bear is not afraid of humans or is approaching humans, that is a cause for concern.“


IRS incompetence blamed for lost tea party emails

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Investigators are blaming two IRS workers at a computer center in West Virginia for erasing thousands of emails related to the tax agency’s tea party scandal, impeding congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative political groups.

The workers might be incompetent, a lead investigator said Thursday, but there is no evidence they were part of a criminal conspiracy to destroy evidence.

House Republicans were incredulous.

“It just defies any sense of logic,“ said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “It gets to the point where it truly gets to be unbelievable. Somebody has to be held accountable.“

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified before the committee and was joined by one of his deputies, Timothy Camus.

Camus said two “lower-graded” employees at the IRS center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, erased 422 computer backup tapes that contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner. The tapes were erased in March 2014, months after congressional investigators requested all of Lerner’s emails.

Lerner has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

Camus said the workers did not fully understand an IRS directive not to destroy email backup tapes. He did not name the workers.

“When interviewed, those employees said, ‘Our job is to put these pieces of plastic into that machine and magnetically obliterate them. We had no idea that there was any type of preservation (order) from the chief technology officer,‘“ Camus told the committee.

Camus said interviews, sworn statements and a review of the employees’ emails turned up no evidence that they were trying to destroy evidence.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY, asked Camus if incompetence was to blame for the tapes being erased.

“One could come to that conclusion,“ Camus said.

In a statement, the IRS said it repeatedly alerted employees starting in May 2013 that they must save all emails, computer tapes and other records related to investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.

“The IRS recognizes there was a clear breakdown of communication in one part of the organization regarding the need to preserve and retain the backup tapes and information, although (the inspector general) concluded this wasn’t intentional,“ the statement said.

George is an independent investigator who was nominated by former President George W. Bush. He has been investigating Lerner’s lost emails for about a year. He is expected to issue a report as early as next week. He and Camus summarized the report’s findings at Thursday’s hearing.

George set off a firestorm in 2013 with an audit that said IRS agents based in a Cincinnati office were improperly singling out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

After George’s report, much of the IRS’s top leadership was forced to retire or resign, including Lerner. The Justice Department and several congressional committees launched investigations, which continue.

Lerner used to head the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status.

Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington knew that tea party applications were being singled out for delay. But they have not disclosed any evidence that anyone outside the IRS knew about the targeting or directed it.

Investigators were hoping that Lerner’s lost emails would advance their probe. George said his office was able to uncover more than 1,000 new Lerner emails, but none was relevant to the investigation.

“This investigation has squandered tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in a failed scavenger hunt for any possible evidence to support wild Republican accusations against Lois Lerner, the IRS, and the White House,“ said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat.


New shark attacks reported off Carolina coasts make 6 this month

AVON, NC —Two additional shark attacks were reported in the Atlantic Ocean off the Carolinas Friday, authorities said—adding to the fear among vacationers there in the wake of several other attacks this month.

One man sustained leg and lower back injuries when he was attacked off the coast of Avon, NC, and another was treated for minor injuries after his attack off Hunting Island, SC Friday’s incidents follow at least four other shark attacks in the region this month.

On June 14, a 12-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy were attacked in the same location near Oak Island, NC, within an hour of each other—and both lost part of an arm, officials said. The type of shark or sharks involved in the attacks were not specified.

Shark attacks are somewhat common along coastal areas between May and September, particularly because the number of swimmers rises sharply in the summer months. Many times, experts say, humans are attacked in shallow water, measuring five feet deep or less, close to the shoreline.

Humans aren’t typically targeted by sharks, but swimmers—particularly surfers—are often mistaken for animals that they do prey on in their natural marine habitat, such as seals.

Earlier this month, a group of boaters off the coast of New York captured startling footage of a great white shark feasting on the carcass of a dead whale—which, much like the famous 1975 horror film Jaws, only tends to add to some people’s fear of sharks.

Despite numerous reported shark attacks in the United States every year, few people are ever killed by the animals. Of all the reported attacks in the last calendar year, 65% involved surfers or wakeboarders and 32% involved swimmers, Time magazine reported.

Governor Tomblin: No Prevailing Wage July 01 due to Lawmakers

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — Blaming inaction by state lawmakers, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration says the state’s prevailing wage will disappear July 01 for a short-term lapse that is creating uncertainty for the construction industry.

On Thursday, the Democratic governor’s spokesman, Chris Stadelman, said WorkForce West Virginia couldn’t calculate the rate for public construction projects by July 01, the deadline in a new law passed by the Republican-led Legislature this year.

Earlier this month, a legislative committee voted not to extend the deadline to September 30, an extension WorkForce requested. Once the wage is recalculated, it will be reinstated.

Republicans have disapproved of how the administration sought to calculate the wage, saying it was incomplete and didn’t meet the law’s requirements. They said federal data must be used, questioned the use of a survey and disapproved of the inclusion of fringe benefits. Democrats said the administration followed the law.

Still, WorkForce sent out surveys to more than 5,000 businesses earlier this month and will continue that process in the next couple of weeks of follow-up.

Until WorkForce finishes the new wage, there will be no low mark on how much contractors are paid for many public projects. All federal projects, including the bulk of highway work, are still subject to a federal prevailing wage.

“It’s unfortunate that the Legislature’s actions will create uncertainty for businesses and local governments in West Virginia, and we urge legislators to reconsider that action,“ Stadelman said.

Republican lawmakers have stood firm. In a letter to WorkForce West Virginia late last week, GOP leadership urged Tomblin’s administration to recalculate the rate the way lawmakers consider correct under law.

Otherwise, the leadership wrote it will continue evaluating “all options available” to ensure legal requirements are met.

“As evidenced by the questions of many of the lawmakers in attendance, the Joint Committee on Government and Finance is disturbed by the rather lackadaisical and cavalier approach that WorkForce West Virginia has exhibited in performing its statutory duties under S.B. 361,“ Cole and Armstead wrote to WorkForce West Virginia Acting Director Russell Fry.

Steve White, executive director of Affiliated Construction Trades, said he’s unaware of major contracts coming up that could be affected. But he’s unsure what will happen in the short term.

“Now we’re on another rollercoaster causing a lot of disruption in the industry,“ White said.

Last legislative session, Republicans started out by pushing for the complete elimination of the prevailing wage. They settled on letting WorkForce West Virginia team with Marshall University and West Virginia University economists to change the wage’s calculation.

They also instituted a cap, eliminating the prevailing wage for projects using $500,000 or less in public money. That change has already taken effect.

The prevailing wage changes don’t apply to contracts that were established before the new requirements’ effective dates.

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Utility tells WV likely costs of converting power plants

CHARLESTON, WV — Appalachian Power says it could cost up to $65 million in upgrades to convert recently retired coal-fired plants to natural gas.

The estimate was submitted to West Virginia regulators, according to the Charleston Gazette.

Additionally, the utility told the Public Service Commission why units at four coal-fired plants couldn’t be reopened and why three of the plants weren’t considered for natural gas.

Age is the reason for the closures of the three plants, as well as their inability to meet federal pollution standards, according to Appalachian Power.


New group backs gas pipeline through VA, WV and NC

RICHMOND, VA — Business and labor groups are uniting in support of a proposed 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas project aimed at bringing the fuel to the Southeast.

Called “EnergySure — Standing Up for Reliable Energy,“ the coalition claims the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, state building and construction trades and others. The group says its membership tops 100 organizations and businesses representing workers in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Organizers say the group is standing behind the $5 billion project proposed by Dominion Resources and its partners, including Duke Energy.

The pipeline would deliver natural gas from wells in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to the Southeast. Its proposed route through Virginia has stirred pockets of opposition and given rise organizations aimed at stopping it or altering its route.


Bear killed in Huntington, deemed safety threat

HUNTINGTON, WV — A bear was shot and killed on Huntington’s south side Thursday evening after it was wandering the streets.

Both Huntington and West Virginia State Police tried to usher the bear to safety while urging residents to go indoors.

Police initially meant to tranquilize the bear but as the bear became more irritated and unpredictable, and people refused to go inside, it created a safety hazard.

The bear was put down with a shotgun a short time later, according to WSAZ-TV.


ON TRAC and Main Street communities and volunteers honored

CHARLESTON, WV — An awards ceremony was held Thursday evening at the Culture Center at the Capitol to honor the governor’s Main Street and ON TRAC award winners.

The two programs aim to revitalize towns and cities and to promote economic growth.

“We spend a lot of time on economic development trying to get companies to relocate here,” said State Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette. “Downtowns are surprisingly one of the first things a new company looks at to see if there’s life in a community; to see how much vigor is in a community.”

Main Street is a national program geared toward larger cities, while ON TRAC is geared toward smaller towns. Point Pleasant won first place for small towns, and Morgantown’s Main Street won for large communities.

“These communities that are part of Main Street and ON TRAC have financially and organizationally committed to making improvements in their downtown, to make them more livable, more attractive and more enticing to visitors,” Burdette said.

First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin also joined the ceremony, which honored volunteers statewide as well as cities that have excelled in the program. Burdette praised the Capital for its effort in the Main Street program, particularly in the East End.

“Charleston has been one of those communities that gets it and understands that creating a vital, forward-thinking downtown area is important to their overall plans for their city,” he said.

West Virginia’s ON TRAC communities include Charles Town, Parkersburg (the largest city in the program), Belington and Kenova.

Accredited Main Street communities include Charleston’s East End and West Side, Morgantown, Martinsburg, Wheeling and White Sulphur Springs.


West Virginia leaders don’t love tax and toll hikes for roads, but some won’t rule them out

CHARLESTON, WV - Entering an election year, state officials aren’t thrilled by suggestions to raise taxes, tolls and fees for roads.

As federal money keeps fizzling, some aren’t dismissing the idea.

West Virginia’s problems appear to be about upkeep, not necessarily congestion.

U.S. Census data from 2013 shows Charleston and Huntington metro areas had commute times about two minutes lower than the national average, almost 26 minutes. The Martinsburg-Hagerstown, Maryland, area exceeds the average by four minutes but includes Washington commuters.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s highways commission suggests adding $419.8 million for roads annually, including tax, toll and fee increases.

Senate President Bill Cole, the top Republican candidate for governor, said everything needs consideration but focus should be on cutting wasteful spending.

Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead expressed concern about raising taxes.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Brave kitty stares down mountain lion in viral Colorado video

DENVER, CO—A video of an unfazed, fluffy house cat staring down a large mountain lion as the predator paws at a Colorado kitchen window has gone viral, receiving nearly 1 million views on YouTube in just a couple of days.

The footage, recorded at a home in the Rocky Mountains about 10 miles west of Boulder, shows the cat sitting on the windowsill and meowing as the much-bigger mountain lion looks into the house, its eyes glinting gold in the light.

The video was posted on Sunday and by mid-morning on Tuesday it had already been watched more than 945,000 times.


It was filmed by Tom Mabe, a Louisville, Kentucky-based comedian who says the stand-off came during a visit his family made about a month ago to friends in Colorado.

In the video, the mountain lion repeatedly paws at the window as Mabe can be heard calling his wife to see.

“Is that crazy or what?“ he says. His wife can be heard asking where the kids are, and Mabe jokes that they are “out back,“ before reassuring her that they are still in bed.

After about 30 seconds, the mountain lion stalks away, pausing on a nearby rocky slope to gaze back at the home.

In the comments posted below the video, Mabe joked that he was hoping to get sponsorship from a double-glazing window company. He declined to reveal exactly where the video was shot, saying that his friends are trying to sell their home.

It was the second wild animal saga to make headlines in the Boulder area this week. On Monday, police released photos of a young female moose that wandered onto the city’s main pedestrian Pearl Street shopping area, attracting a crowd of onlookers.


Other legal challenges to health overhaul remain

WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you thought the legal fight over the health care overhaul was finally over, think again. At least four issues related to the Affordable Care Act still are being sorted out in the courts, although none seems to pose the same threat to the law as the challenge to nationwide subsidies that the court rejected on Thursday, or the constitutional case that the justices decided in favor of the law in 2012.

Among the pending lawsuits:

—House of Representatives v. Burwell: House Republicans are spearheading a challenge to some $175 billion the administration is paying health insurance companies over a decade to reimburse them for offering lowered rates for poor people. The House argues that Congress never specifically appropriated that money, and indeed denied an administration request for it, but that the administration is paying it anyway. The House says this amounts to unconstitutionally co-opting Congress’ power of the purse. The administration insists it is properly relying on an existing pot of money. A trial judge is considering the administration’s claim that the House lacks standing to bring the lawsuit.

—Sissel v. Health and Human Services Department: A unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington rejected a conservative group’s claim that Congress imposed new taxes unconstitutionally when it created the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and small-business owner Matt Sissel argued that the “Obamacare” legislation was a bill for raising revenue and that it violated the Origination Clause of the Constitution because it began in the Senate, not the House. The Constitution requires that legislation to raise revenue must start in the House. The appellate panel said that rather than being a revenue-raising device, the health care law was intended to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care. The full appeals court in Washington has yet to rule on a request to rehear the case.

-West Virginia v. Health and Human Services Department: West Virginia says the White House has undertaken a series of illegal changes and delays to the law. A lawsuit filed in federal court in the District of Columbia points to a November 2013 decision by President Barack Obama to allow insurance companies to offer people another year of coverage under their existing plans even if those plans didn’t meet the requirements set out the health care overhaul. Obama acted in response to mounting frustration over cancellation notices sent to Americans whose health plans didn’t meet the law’s coverage standards. West Virginia officials said they too support allowing people to keep their health plan, but object that Obama took action without seeking congressional action or inviting comment before any changes took effect. There has not been a court hearing or order since the lawsuit was filed 11 months ago.

—Contraceptive mandate cases: Dozens of religiously affiliated colleges, hospitals and other not-for-profit groups do not like the compromises the administration has put forward to allow women covered under these institutions’ health plans to obtain contraceptives at no extra cost, among other preventive services required by the health care law, while still ensuring that groups that hold religious objections to contraceptives do not have to pay for them. The government says the groups have to fill out a form or send a letter stating their objection, but non-profits say that still makes them complicit in providing contraceptives. Four federal appeals courts have sided with the administration, but other cases are pending and Catholic organizations in Pennsylvania have asked the Supreme Court to decide the issue.

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

Vatican signs treaty with “State of Palestine”

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican signed a treaty with the “State of Palestine” on Friday, saying it hoped its legal recognition of the state would help stimulate peace with Israel and that the treaty itself would serve as a model for other Mideast countries.

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher and his Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki, signed the treaty at a ceremony inside the Vatican.

Israel expressed disappointment when the Vatican announced last month that it had reached final agreement with the “State of Palestine” on the treaty regulating the life of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories.

It repeated that regret in a Foreign Ministry statement Friday, saying the move hurt peace prospects and would discourage the Palestinians from returning to direct negotiations. It warned that it would study the agreement “and its implications for future cooperation between Israel and the Vatican.“

Gallagher, though, said he hoped the Vatican’s recognition “may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.“

He said that he hoped the treaty could serve as a model for the church in other Mideast countries, where Christians are a minority and often persecuted.

The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state and had referred to the Palestine state since. But the treaty marked its first legal recognition of the Palestinian territory as a state.

Al-Malki called the treaty an “historic agreement” and said it marked “a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation.“

The United States and Israel oppose recognizing the Palestinian state, arguing that it undermines U.S.-led efforts to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of Palestinian statehood. Most countries in Western Europe have held off on recognition, but some have hinted that their position could change if peace efforts remain deadlocked.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called the treaty itself one-sided, saying the text ignored “the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem.“

WV Higher Education Community Joins Forces to Address Campus Safety

The Gilmer Free Press

Charleston, WV – The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission) hosted a statewide Campus Safety Summit focusing on some of higher education’s most challenging issues.

More than 140 representatives of the state’s public four- and two- year colleges and universities, along with independent institutions, gathered to discuss awareness, prevention and response surrounding suicide, sexual violence and communicable diseases.

“These individuals are on the frontlines at colleges and universities across West Virginia working to not only educate and inspire students – but also to protect those students and everyone on our campuses,” said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. “These subject matters are difficult to manage, and they are certainly difficult to discuss. But our statewide higher education community has the power to turn these challenging issues into stories of greater awareness, successful prevention and effective responses.”

Liz Seccuro, victims’ rights activist and author of Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice, provided keynote remarks regarding her story of survival and how West Virginia campuses can prevent and respond to campus sexual violence.

The Gilmer Free Press


“Liz bravely shares her story of survival and her own fight for justice, and we were grateful to welcome her to West Virginia,” said Paul Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “We must be ever vigilant about the issue of campus sexual violence – and protecting students, faculty, staff and our entire campus communities on multiple fronts.”

Additional panelists included: Barri Faucett, West Virginia Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention (ASPEN) Project; Dr. Al Kasprowicz, WELLWVU Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services at West Virginia University; Katie Clifford, J.D., The NCHERM Group; Lois Manns, West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services; Dr. Guy Sims, Bluefield State College; Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer; Sharon Lansdale, Center for Rural Health Development; and Dr. William Pewen, Marshall University.

The Gilmer Free Press


Liz Seccuro is a victims’ rights advocate and the founder of STARS (Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors), a donor-advised fund that assists all survivors of rape, sexual assault, and incest. Seccuro also teaches a few classes a year at Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Journalism on how to write responsibly about sex crimes and the art of interviewing victims of violence.

As documented in her 2011 memoir Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice, her story began in 1984 when she was drugged and raped by a fellow student, William Nottingham Beebe, as a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia. The university did nothing to aid her in seeking justice and offered no official remedy, leaving her on her own to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t until 2005—after receiving a letter of apology from Beebe inviting her to contact him so that he could explain what led him to rape her and, ostensibly, help her heal—that she was able to take action against him. Following a frightening and eerie email correspondence with her rapist, she submitted her evidence to the Charlottesville Police Department, who arrested Beebe. He was ultimately sentenced to 18 months in prison and required to perform 500 hours of community service, including speaking on college campuses about sexual assault and substance abuse. To this day, there is no record of this condition of parole being met.

Since the publication of Crash Into Me, Liz Seccuro has appeared on a multitude of national television shows, radio shows, blogs, and magazines. Most notably, a three-part excerpt of her book was featured in Marie Claire magazine, both nationally and abroad. In 2011, she received the Shining Star/Vision Award from Boston’s Victim Rights Law Center and in November 2012 she was honored by SAVI/NYC of Mt. Sinai Hospital for her advocacy, joining past honorees such as prosecutor and author Linda Fairstein, Trisha Meili (the “Central Park Jogger”), and actress Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In January 2013, she was named to the national advisory board of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and continues to lobby on Capitol Hill with RAINN on behalf of survivors of violent crime. A frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, she is at work on a number of magazine articles on the scourge of military sexual assault and the NFL’s culture of violence.

 

06.26.2015
EducationNewsWest Virginia(2) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Gilmer county cordially extends an invitation to author Ms. Seccuro. 

While here, please do a little investigative work and add another chapter to your book.

By who knows? yes YOU do!  on  06.26.2015

Knowing what I know about all the RAPES at Glenville State College, this promotional announcement almost offends me, for you know the governor has to know about horrid crimes and unpunished RAPES at GSC that have been going on for years—- And endorsed by someone I feel is completely and totally dishonest and that would be Gerald B Hough Gilmer County Prosecutor.

The only consolation is that Wilke Perez a former QB for the football team at GSC accused of RAPE will be doing three years in federal prison for another crime.

It is also interesting to note that concerned citizens had mentioned him, the rape and the cover ups by Mr. Hough to the FBI just about the time they started looking into the wrong doing of Wilke Perez. His VICTIM Anita Phillips Wiseman we just did a detailed interview with (conducted by Lawrence J Smith)and the crime will now have a new focus.

By the way the victim of that sexual assault that Perez was arrested for in Gilmer County is now a federal prison corrections officer.

By Council of Concerned Citizens  on  06.27.2015

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West Virginia Company Among Winners in $100,000 Shale Gas Innovation Contest

The Gilmer Free Press

Fairmont Brine Processing, LLC is one of four winners of the Shale Gas Innovation Contest. Each winner receives a check for $25,000.

The Shale Gas Innovation Contest is designed to encourage the development of new technologies from the Marcellus and Utica shales and enhance environmental responsibility. West Virginia’s Fairmont Brine Processing entry was an evaporation and crystallization process that fully treats wastewater, extracts reusable byproducts, and has the ability to also formulate fracture stimulation fluids to meet an operating company’s completion design.

The other three winners – Appalachian Drilling Services, EthosGen and PixController — hail from Pennsylvania. The Shale Gas Innovation Contest — previously limited to Pennsylvania entrants — was able to expand to include West Virginia for the first time in 2014, thanks to a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. 

Martirano Calls Low School Attendance “Unconscionable”

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — The state superintendent of schools admits he’s “disappointed” with school attendance in parts of West Virginia during the latter part of the 2014-2015 school year.
Dr. Michael Martirano

In some counties, Dr. Michael Martirano said the official attendance numbers reported to the state Department of Education were as low as 66% as the year stretched far into June.

“For me, anything below 90% is unconscionable and we shouldn’t have those low attendance rates,” Martirano said.

The school year ended in West Virginia on Wednesday, June 24, when the last of the public schools still open in the Mountain State closed in both McDowell County and Wyoming County.

The 2013 education reform law, which included a mandate for 180 separate instructional days, allows the school year to continue through June 30, if necessary, to meet that mark.

This was the first year for its enforcement.

“Overall through the month of June, we were in the high 80s for our attendance rate and we have a lot of our classrooms where great instruction was occurring, but in some portions of our state students weren’t showing up,” Martirano said.

While acknowledging West Virginia is in a transition from an expectation of 180 days of instruction to a requirement, Martirano promised he would not waiver on the mandate and, he said, he told county superintendents as much during a Wednesday meeting.

School calendars must be built with days included for any necessary makeups due to weather to ensure student’s are getting proper instruction for the required amount of days, according to Martirano.

“We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t have two weeks off for Christmas break. We can’t have a full week off for Spring Break. We can’t have a full week off for Thanksgiving,” Martirano said on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“We have to make certain that we’re building calendars that have flexibility in there.”

The 2015-2016 school year in West Virginia will begin as early as August 06 in some areas.

~~  Shauna Johnson ~~

06.26.2015
EducationNewsWest Virginia(5) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Unconscionable is a wonderful choice of words.

Unconscionable is a great description of how intervention counties are treated.

By We Agree its Unconscionable  on  06.26.2015

Mr. Martirano, the children missed more days than were put into the school calendar due to an act of God, the weather. Some schools and homes may not have had electric, heat or water. Roads may have flooded.  The children were not truants. The parents did not decide to keep them home just because they felt like it.  The decision to close the schools was made by Superintendents and Transportation Directors in all counties who made that determination based on weather conditions being such it would be unsafe to put buses on the roads.

W.V. Code §18-8-1. Compulsory school attendance; exemptions.

(a) Exemption from the requirements of compulsory public school attendance established in section one-a of this article shall be made on behalf of any child for the causes or conditions set forth in this section. Each cause or condition set forth in this section is subject to confirmation by the attendance authority of the county…….

To continue with information relative to the subject at hand:  It is further stated:


(e) A child is exempt from the compulsory school attendance requirement set forth in section one-a of this article if conditions rendering school attendance impossible or hazardous to the life, health or safety of the child exist.

Sir,  it makes no sense to FORCE children to attend school year round because you can not control the weather.
 
Your attitude unreasonable, even unthinkable. You have been with us such a short time. Are you already under the spell of the WVBOE? Are you now omnipotent?

Many counties came respectfully before the state board asking for a waiver from the hardships compliance would place on students and families.

By Mrs. Manchin Said No  on  06.26.2015

Martirano, who’s the “we” you keep talking about as in, “We can’t have”?  You should be talking to “YOUR” Superintendents.YOU don’t exercise any oversight of YOUR employees. Quit trying to run the counties from Charleston’s bully pulpit. That doesn’t work.

By R Easton  on  06.26.2015

Another problem created by the bureaucratic problem that can’t solve their own problem?

By here we go again  on  06.27.2015

Dr. Martirano, come to Gilmer County and meet separately with elected board of education officials and regular people to get their take on what has happened with intervention.

You speak with the WVBOE and the local mind guards too much to be out of touch. Did you rehire Devono and do you supervise him?

Something strange. Gilmer knew about his coming here before the WVBOE even had its meeting to discuss the subject. Who really is in charge to cut deals behind the scenes?

By Ed Baskins  on  06.27.2015

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WVU Graduation List: Spring 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

MORGANTOWN, WV – West Virginia University has released its Dean’s and President’s list and Graduation list for the spring 2015 semester.

A total of 5,099 students were named to the Dean’s list for spring 2015.

Out of these students, 1,839 were named to the President’s list after receiving a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Those on the Dean’s list received a 3.5 GPA or higher.

A total of 4,301 WVU students graduated following the 2015 spring term.

Following are the graduates from the area Counties:

Last Name First Name City County
Delauder Emily Belington Barbour
Gray Trinity Belington Barbour
Jones Shannon Belington Barbour
Phipps Sarah Belington Barbour
Post Emma Belington Barbour
Price Dereck Belington Barbour
Riccio Jonathan Belington Barbour
Ware Jonathan Belington Barbour
Zirkle Christina Buckhannon Barbour
Howdershelt Seth Moatsville Barbour
Crickenberger Samuel Philippi Barbour
Foster Tasha Philippi Barbour
Norris Lauren Philippi Barbour
Saas Barbara Philippi Barbour
Schiefelbein Lauren Philippi Barbour
Chapman Chance Duck Braxton
Berry Tiffany Flatwoods Braxton
Tyo Jacob Frametown Braxton
Foster Marshall Gassaway Braxton
Rollins Katie Gassaway Braxton
Frame Macy Sutton Braxton
Zaras Theodore Sutton Braxton
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