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WV Kids Count Finds Big Racial Disparities in Child Well-Being

African-American children in West Virginia aren’t faring well compared to their white peers, according to a new report from West Virginia Kids Count. But, the report’s authors said, many of the problems they found can be solved.

The group’s research confirmed disparities across the board, said Laura Gandee, report co-author and interim executive director at West Virginia Kids Count. For example, low birth weights affect many more black infants, she said. And African-American children under age five are twice as likely to live in poverty as white children.

“We suspected there were racial disparities in child well-being,” Gandee said. “What we didn’t suspect was how vast and how persistent they are.“

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According to Gandee, policy-makers know how to address the issue of low birthweight, but given the state’s economic and budgetary problems, many lawmakers said they had to focus on other priorities. They argued that West Virginia should not be starting any new government programs.

West Virginia has the highest rate of smoking by pregnant women in the country, and Gandee said that is one factor behind low birthweight rates in African-American children. She said focusing on good perinatal medical care and reducing the smoking rate has improved birth weights in other places.

“It’s doable,” Gandee said. “If we just focused on improving the birth weights of African-American babies, we could change the course of their lives. We can do it.“

A small investment early in children’s lives has been shown to make a huge difference in their long-term health, education and even employment, she said. And that can help the state as a whole.

“We have to do better by them,” Gandee said, “not only because it’s the right thing, but because West Virginia just simply can not prosper if a whole segment of our population is being left behind.“

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans make up just over 3.5 percent of West Virginia’s population.

More information is available at wvkidscount.org.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

HOBET PROJECT HOLDS VAST PROMISE FOR WEST VIRGINIANS

A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
The Free Press WV

Just down the road from Charleston in Boone and Lincoln counties lies something unique and promising in Southern West Virginia - approximately 12,000 acres of flat land ideal for new businesses and with the potential for a level of job creation that would be a game changer for our state.

Early this year, I announced plans to turn this former mine site into what I believe could be an economic epicenter for West Virginia. This is a bold, “blue sky” proposal unlike anything we have seen in our state previously - and today, I stand just as firmly behind this public-private plan and the potential it holds.

Over the past eight months, I have worked closely with Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette and his team at the Development Office, a wide cross-section of state agencies, Marshall University and West Virginia University, local officials, landowners and many others to begin paving the way for the largest industrial site in West Virginia history at the former Hobet surface mine.

We have been moving quickly.

We recently submitted a technical assistance grant application to the Appalachian Regional Commission through its POWER initiative. If awarded, this money would allow us to develop a detailed economic assessment and strategic plan for the best use of the site - a critical step toward making the land usable for business and industry.

In addition, the Division of Highways is working with potential contractors on plans for a 2.6-mile road that will open up access to the site. We are confident the cost of the road could be largely - and maybe even fully - covered by federal funds. In fact, by 2020, the new Federal Highway Bill will increase the amount of federal dollars for West Virginia’s highways by $204 million compared to the amount we received last year - and I thank our congressional delegation for their support of this legislation.

We also are looking at an innovative approach to funding for the roadway through bonds that are secured by future federal highway funds - which would even further minimize any potential impact on our state highway fund.

This is an investment in the future of Southern West Virginia, and I believe the returns will vastly exceed it.

While we plan for the road construction, Marshall University has completed an initial round of mapping to identify prospective sites for industrial development. This has allowed us to outline strategic phases for the project - phases that visualize dozens of industrial, recreational and commercial plots of land.

We also continue working with local landowners to secure needed land titles for developable acreage. Quite simply, this project will not be possible without them - and I appreciate their collaboration.

If we succeed in this project - and I believe we must - we will be seizing an opportunity to revitalize Southern West Virginia by creating targeted economic restructuring in areas hardest hit by the downturn in the coal industry. Moreover, we will be doing so in an area that has an available workforce of more than 400,000 people, many of whom are highly skilled and unemployed or underemployed.

We all know what has happened in Southern West Virginia with the loss of thousands of coal-related jobs. And we have all seen the impact of these drastic changes on families, on our economy and on our state budget. Without a source of new jobs in this region of our state, hardworking West Virginians will pack up and leave. They will have no other choice.

We owe it to each and every West Virginian impacted by the decline of the coal industry to realize the full potential of the Hobet project. I believe this is the best, most promising way forward to ensure Southern West Virginia is a place where people want to work, a place they are proud to call home - a place where they can stay and support their families because new economic opportunities are flourishing. 

Gilmer County Schools August 2016 Newsletter

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Law Enforcement is Increasing Efforts to Seek out Impaired Drivers

West Virginia Drivers are Urged to Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over
The Free Press WV

As the Labor Day Holiday approaches, this means family activities, fun, and various festivities will be happening around the state; it also means there will be an increase in impaired driving and impaired driving related fatalities. In an effort to reduce impaired driving and related fatalities, Law Enforcement across the state will be stepping up patrols. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6:00 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., as compared to half of all drunk-driving crash fatalities throughout the rest of that year between these same hours.

To help reduce these tragic deaths in West Virginia, Federal Grant funds from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) will be used to pay law enforcement officers overtime to conduct impaired-driving saturation patrols and checkpoints outside their regular working hours.

Now through September 5th, law enforcement officers in West Virginia will be participating in these increased patrols and conducting sobriety checkpoints throughout August and into September. So far, in 2016, more than 5,400 DUI arrests have been made, and in 2015, a total of 9,102 DUI arrests were made over the course of the year.

The average alcohol-impaired DUI offender in West Virginia has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15, which is almost twice the BAC legal limit of .08.

West Virginia laws require all impaired-driving offenders with a BAC over the legal limit to serve jail time and pay required fines. Additionally, DUI offenders must serve a minimum license revocation period and complete a prescribed DUI Safety and Treatment Program through the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health in order to have their driving privileges reinstated. Alcohol-impaired DUI offenders may also be required to participate in the Alcohol Test and Lock Program, commonly known as Interlock.

For more information on the consequences of impaired driving, visit dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304.926.2509.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Audit: Legislative employees were paid for when didn’t work

Auditors have concluded that at least four state legislative employees were either paid for days they did not work or took days off without submitting the proper leave time.

Legislative Post-Audit Division director Denny Rhodes told legislators Sunday that an initial review found three Court of Claims employees were compensated for a total of 64 days not worked, totaling $6,833 in pay and $2,050 in benefits.

Rhodes says auditors who analyzed the time sheets and leave time records for all Court of Claims employees will present a full report at September interim meetings.

Court of Claims Clerk Cheryl Hall told the legislative Post Audits Committee that the issues raised in the preliminary audit report have been corrected.


►   Morrisey praises federal ruling blocking enforcement of transgender directive

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is hailing a decision blocking nationwide enforcement of the federal government’s directive on transgender students.

The injunction granted August 22 by a federal court in Texas stops implementation of President Barack Obama’s directive threatening federal funding for local school districts that refuse to admit students to the bathrooms, locker rooms, dormitories and athletic teams of their choice.

“This is a crucial victory in our fight against federal overreach,” Morrisey said in a statement. “We are pleased that the court recognized the threat this mandate poses to students’ privacy and local decision making over school policy.

“Halting implementation will protect vital West Virginia school funding while litigation is still pending.”

The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office joined 12 other states in seeking this injunction in July 2016. The injunction supports a lawsuit brought by West Virginia, Texas and 11 other states against the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice in May 2016.

That lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Texas, contends the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice seek to single handedly change the traditionally held understanding of the word “sex” from that based on biology to include a person’s self-determined gender identity.

The states argue such an approach ignores lawful procedure, sidesteps congressional authorization and unconstitutionally coerces states. The plaintiffs also point to violations of the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments among other arguments.

West Virginia brought the lawsuit with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. They are joined by two local school districts in Arizona and Texas.

A West Virginia conservative group also is hailing the ruling.

“Today is a day to celebrate, albeit briefly, that common sense has not completely left every seat of the federal judiciary,“ said Allen Whit, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. “This ruling in favor of West Virginia’s public school students proves that safety first should be the driving force in these types of decisions.

“Now county board’s of education like Marion County, who have rushed into acceptance of President Obama’s dangerous guidelines out of fear they may lose a few federal dollars, will be required to return to a student first and safety first approach.

“This is a victory but no victory is permanent and we must press forward at the legislature to pass laws preventing county boards from making these types of dangerous decisions that could permanently scar our children.“

Whitt also praised Morrisey’s efforts in the matter.

“Every parent of every public school student should thank Attorney General Patrick Morrissey for wisely choosing to join in with Texas in this suit on behalf of student safety,“ Whitte said. “Because of his prudent actions, West Virginia students will now benefit from this Texas Federal Judge’s ruling.“


►   Morrisey finalizes opioid plan

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey finalized his plan to reduce opioid painkiller use by better equipping West Virginia’s prescribers and pharmacists.

The first-of-its-kind initiative in West Virginia has garnered broad support from stakeholders across the state and nation.

“Finalizing these best practices set West Virginia on course to a brighter tomorrow,” Morrisey said. “This initiative recognizes the crucial role prescribers and dispensers play.”

Morrisey said prescribers’ broad support emboldens his belief that West Virginians can slash usage of these addictive painkillers by at least 25 percent and save many from a life of addiction.

Finalization of the best practices initiative continues Morrisey’s push to reduce prescription of opioid medication as a first-line therapy option.

These drugs, such as Lortab and Vicodin, have characteristics similar to heroin and experts agree those medications can lead to heroin abuse and addiction, a progression that has killed far too many in West Virginia, according to the Attorney General’s Office’s press release.

“I first want to specifically commend your efforts to help reverse the opioid epidemic that has ravaged West Virginia,” wrote Dr. James Madara, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Medical Association. “It is a tragic understatement to say that generations of families have been affected by opioid misuse, overdose and death. The AMA shares your belief that primary prevention and public education are key components of a public health plan to halt the epidemic and protect future generations.”

Morrisey’s plan provides recommendations to prescribers and pharmacists who prescribe or dispense opioid prescriptions across West Virginia. It is designed to reduce misuse, while preserving legitimate patient access to necessary treatment.

“Your Best Practices for Prescribing Opioids promotes excellence in care, and, together with your guidelines for dispensers and health care payers, can provide an effective resource for health care professionals and others,” wrote Dr. Paula Taylor and Brian Foy, respectively president and executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association.

“We welcome and support the recent Best Practices Plan,” wrote Robert C. Knittle, executive director of the state’s Board of Medicine. “Only through such concerted and combined efforts will we begin to impact the opioid epidemic.”

The best practices initiative urges prescribers to regularly monitor their patient’s use of opioid drugs; utilize physical exams and urine tests to spot evidence of misuse; and educate each patient about the risks of opioid treatment, only then approving such a prescription after a screening and consideration of non-opioid alternatives.

“It is clear that Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, is looking out for the best interest of the patient,” wrote Holly L. Harvey, secretary for the state’s Board of Chiropractic. “We feel that the best practice guidelines underscore the importance of all the healthcare providers working together to do what is best for the patient. It is admirable that input is being gathered from all the professions who can help improve this epidemic in our state.”

Pharmacists are encouraged to verify the legitimacy of each patient, prescriber and prescription, in addition to ensuring the medication, dose, quantity and any mix thereof is safe and appropriate.

“We strongly encourage all healthcare professionals to support and adopt these guidelines into their daily practices,” wrote Jonathan Kline, president of the state’s Society of Health System Pharmacists. “We feel strongly that pharmacists have a vital role in the efforts to reduce the use of prescription opioids.”

The suggestions underscore the importance of both professions utilizing the state’s controlled substance monitoring database; educating patients about safe use, storage and disposal of opioid drugs; and incorporating naloxone into opioid treatment discussions.

“We encourage healthcare providers to adopt these guidelines in their facilities,” wrote Sarah Black and Mary Hager, respectively president and legislative chair for the West Virginia Occupational Therapy Association. “We believe West Virginia’s opioid problem will be vastly reduced as these best practices are implemented across the state.”

The proposal does not impact patients suffering pain as active cancer treatments or palliative and end-of-life care.

“Prescription drug abuse effects every resident in WV, directly or indirectly, and we are confident that Mr. Morrisey and his staff are moving in the right direction by partnering with the varied health professions and coordinating efforts to educate the public on alternative treatment methods for managing pain,” wrote Lori Ellison and Roxanne Clay, respectively chairwoman and executive director of the state’s Board of Examiners in Counseling.

In 2015, West Virginia recorded approximately 686 drug overdose deaths, including 598 opioid-related fatal overdoses.

That’s one year after West Virginia led the nation in drug overdose deaths at a rate of 35.5 per 100,000 people.

Reversing that trend has been a top priority for Morrisey. He has fought the epidemic on multiple fronts with criminal prosecutions, increased funding, education, civil litigation, multi-state initiatives, new technology and engagement with the faith-based community.

Just last month, Morrisey partnered with the Board of Pharmacy to enhance the state’s controlled substance monitoring database and several other groups to reduce the use of opioids in high school athletics.

Others supporting Morrisey’s best practices include the state’s Boards of Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Dentistry, Occupational Therapy, Chiropractic and Acupuncture, the state’s Board of Examiners in Counseling and the state’s Massage Therapy Licensure Board, the state’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, Primary Care Association, Academy of Family Physicians, Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Physical Therapy Association, Occupational Therapy Association, Association of Licensing Boards and the Family Medicine Foundation of West Virginia, along with the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Massage Therapy Association, International Association of Yoga Therapists and the American Meditation Society.


►   Governor Tomblin Extends State of Emergency for Eight Counties

Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Roane, Summers and Webster counties to remain under State of Emergency until September 21

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today extended the State of Emergency for the following eight counties, allowing for continued state resources to support residents and communities affected by the June flooding: Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Roane, Summers and Webster.

“Nearly two months after this flooding devastated parts of our state, West Virginians in these eight counties continue on the road to recovery under emergency conditions,” Governor Tomblin said. “With this extended State of Emergency, we are ensuring state resources continue to be available for families and communities where tough conditions remain.”

The State of Emergency originally declared on June 23 will remain in effect for these eight counties until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. The State of Emergency for Jackson, Lincoln, Monroe and Pocahontas counties expires at 5 p.m. on Monday, August 22, 2016.


►   DHHR Purchasing Office Globally Recognized for Excellence for Third Consecutive Year

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling today announced the Department’s Purchasing Office received the 2016 Sterling Award. This prestigious recognition is presented to agencies that have achieved the Universal Public Purchasing Certification Council’s (UPPCC) agency certification for three years in a row.

“This is a tremendous honor not only for the purchasing unit and Director Bryan Rosen, but for our entire department,” Bowling said. “I am grateful for these exceptional employees who continuously demonstrate what it means to be a part of team DHHR with their hard work and dedication.”

The Sterling Award is issued to agencies who receive UPPCC Certification for three consecutive years. Certification by UPPCC requires staff members to meet established criteria consisting of public purchasing experience, education/training and successful completion of a rigorous examination.

In addition to being West Virginia’s leader in this arena, the DHHR Office of Purchasing is one of fewer than 90 agencies worldwide holding UPPCC Agency Sterling Award Certification.

The designation of Certified Public Purchasing Officers (CPPO), Certified Professional Public Buyers (CPPB), and Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) demonstrate an individual’s high standard and competency with government procurement and the ability to obtain maximum value for the taxpayer’s dollar.

The DHHR team is comprised of: Jo Bess, CPPB; David Darr; Kim Debolt; Theresa Dorsey; Mary Farley; Althea Greenhowe; Robert Price, CPPO, CPPB; Bryan Rosen, CPPB; Susie Teel, CPPB; Roberta Wagner, CPPO, CPPB, CPIM; and Heather White.

The UPPCC is an international governing body that has certified more than 10,000 professionals around the world.


►   More Cities Considering Ordinances to Limit Use of Fireworks

Municipalities in the Kanawha Valley are considering ordinances to limit the use of fireworks.

Municipalities are following the lead of South Charleston, which passed an ordinance last week to limit the discharge of fireworks on certain holidays.

Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards says the city of Hurricane is considering a similar ordinance. He says law enforcement officers would increase patrol around the holidays to enforce the potential ban. The ordinance would fine violators $100 to $500.

Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt also says city officials are preparing an ordinance which would limit the use of fireworks on certain holidays.

Other places considering action on the issue include St. Albans, Charleston and Dunbar.


►   Grants for Flood-Harmed Businesses Reach $363K

West Virginia has approved $363,400 in grants to help 45 small businesses recover from damaging floods in June.

Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette gave the update on the state’s RISE West Virginia program Monday during a legislative meeting.

Burdette says the grants impact 287 jobs.

Burdette says 222 businesses in 11 counties have applied, including 89 in Greenbrier County, 50 in Kanawha and 42 in Nicholas. Applications are being processed.

Last week, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin awarded almost $200,000 to 23 Greenbrier businesses. They ranged from $2,000 to $10,000 per business.

Tomblin set a minimum $2 million goal through private donations and state money.

Burdette says a company donated $500,000 in office furniture for affected businesses.

The June 23 floods killed 23 people and damaged homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Did You Know?

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TRUMP’S STAMINA ATTACK ON CLINTON STIRS TALK OF GENDER BIAS

There’s little evidence such strategies are effective when it comes to winning over women and they risk turning off older women, who have faced discrimination in the workplace.


U.S. IMMIGRATION WOES ROOTED IN THE PAST

Blame for the state of immigration may well be attached to an action 30 years ago - Ronald Reagan’s approval of a 1986 amnesty bill.


WHO IS HEADED TO FLOOD-RAVAGED LOUISIANA

President Obama will make his first visit to the state after it was hit by a natural disaster as he attempts to assure the locals that helping them is a priority.


WHAT’S EXPOSED AS WIKILEAKS SPILLS SECRETS

The AP finds that the radical transparency group’s crusade is causing collateral damage with the release of private information of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse.


WHERE ISLAMIC STATE GROUP STRUGGLES TO RETAIN GRIP

As IS loses ground in Iraq, the militants are showing the strain in their rule over areas they still control, killing deserters and relying on younger recruits.


BRAIN INJURIES SEEN IN DOMESTIC ASSAULTS

Experts believe many cases go undetected and untreated in abused women, making them vulnerable to mental woes, loss of jobs and family, and sometimes homelessness.


THOUSANDS OF CENTRAL AMERICAN CHILDREN SEEK TO ENTER U.S.

Most are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, three countries with some of the world’s highest murder and poverty rates, UNICEF says.


OFF SOUTH AFRICA’S COAST, GREAT WHITE SHARKS THREATENED

Researchers are sounding the alarm, saying that “if you take top predators out of the environment, the rest of the environment will collapse.“


WHEN MERE PAINT WON’T DO IT

From Boston to Chicago and New York to Tokyo, traditional bike lanes running alongside vehicle traffic are being replaced in favor of “protected” lanes or “cycletracks,“ where physical barriers come between cyclists and traffic.


STANFORD BANS HARD LIQUOR FROM UNDERGRADUATE PARTIES

The change comes after former university swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, after both heavily drank on campus.

Gilmer County Commission Regular Meeting - 08.23.16 - Today

The Free Press WV
GILMER COUNTY COMMISSION  
AGENDA for REGULAR MEETING
August 23, 2016 @ 9:00 AM
Gilmer County Courthouse – Commission Office
10 Howard Street, Glenville, WV

I. CALL TO ORDER


II.  PLEDGE of ALLEGIANCE TO THE U.S. FLAG


III. PUBLIC COMMENTS


IV. APPOINTMENTS

              9:15-Wes Dobbins-Dobbins Cemetery Trustees

              9:30 – Wanda Cottrill-Rosedale Senior Center

              9:45-Dan Minney-Board of Education request for levy placement on November 08, 2016 –General Election


V. ROUTINE BUSINESS:

        Discussion and/or action on:

              1) Exonerations and/or Consolidations

              2) Approve Estate Qualifications and Estate Settlements

              3)  Board Appointments and/or Resignations:

                      a)  Board Seats open on the:

                              i. Unsafe Buildings & Lands Enforcement Agency - DeKalb/Troy & Glenville Corporation

                              ii. Board member appointments for Landmarks Commission

              4)  Budget Revisions

              5)  Budget Control Report-None

              6)  Approve Invoices for Payment

              7)  Approve County Commission Minutes

              8)  Receipt of County Board Minutes:

                      a)  Gilmer county Parks & Recreation Board Inc. minutes- May 15, 2016

                      b)  WesMonTy RC & D Board of Directors minutes-June 21, 2016


VI. UNFINISHED BUSINESS


VII. NEW BUSINESS:

        Discussion and/or action on:

              a) Need to appoint a new Dog Warden


VIII. OTHER BUSINESS


IX. EXECUTIVE SESSION AS NEEDED


X.    ADJOURNMENT


NEXT MEETING: September 02, 2016

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Elizabeth Smart Records Anti-Porn Video

Elizabeth Smart has shared new details of her horrific kidnap ordeal in a video for an anti-porn group, in which she says she has witnessed first-hand how damaging porn is. Smart—who was kidnapped in 2002, when she was 14, and raped repeatedly over the next nine months—says captor Brian David Mitchell ended up raping her even more after he had watched pornography, NBC reports. “He would just sit and look at it and stare at it, and he would just talk about these women, and then when he was done, he would turn and look at me, and he would be like, ‘Now we’re going to do this,“ she says.

“Looking at pornography wasn’t enough for him. Having sex with his wife after looking at pornography, it wasn’t enough for him. And then it led him to finally going out and kidnapping me,“ she says. “He just always wanted more. I can’t say that he would not have gone out and kidnapped me had he not looked at pornography. All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse.“ The video was recorded for the group Fight the New Drug, which says it uses “science, facts, and personal accounts” to raise awareness of what it calls the “harmful effects” of pornography, reports the Deseret News.


►   Car Plows Into Crowd at Outdoor Ohio Concert

Police in Ohio are considering charges against a 74-year-old woman who hit the gas instead of her brakes and crashed into a crowd at an outdoor community concert in Ohio, injuring herself and eight other people, officials say. The woman drove onto a small, packed dance floor Sunday night in Parma Heights, about 10 miles south of Cleveland, Det. Sgt. Steve Scharschmidt says. The incident happened in a parking lot right next to the city’s police and fire departments. “We had an officer inside who had heard all the people screaming, and he went out the front door,“ Scharschmidt tells the AP.

The woman was leaving the concert when she confused the brake with the gas pedal as she was pulling out of a parking space, police said. She plowed into eight people on the dance floor, and then crashed into a telephone pole and a vehicle as she tried to correct herself, officials said. Six people were taken to area hospitals, two of them with serious injuries. Three others, including the driver, were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Police said they believed the victims are all in their 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. There were more than 100 people at the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin summer band tribute concert, the last of a series of outdoor community concerts this summer.


►   Woman Trying to Take Photo Dies in Cliff Fall

A Nevada woman who had just moved to California ended up falling off a notorious cliff on her first full day in the state, CBS reports. The woman, identified by NBC Los Angeles as 21-year-old Lauren Barrera, was found dead at the base of the seaside cliff in Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, Los Angeles. Her friends told investigators that tripped over her flip-flops and fell around 100 feet after climbing over a 3-foot wall to take photos.

The stretch of cliffs where Barrera died has claimed many lives: Authorities say around a dozen people die in accidents every year, and there are also numerous suicides. Earlier this month, a man and a woman in their 20s died in the same spot in what police believe was an accident. “It happens all the time over here, left and right , a lot of young people,“ area resident Cecil Reynolds tells NBC. “You see the railing here—tells you don’t go over and try to take pictures. A lot of people take chances.“


►   Smithsonian’s National Zoo Celebrates Giant Panda Bei Bei’s First Birthday


►   With Son’s Disappearance Gone Cold, Dad Makes an Offer

“I think it’s time to bring him home,“ says Richard Johnson, and he’s putting up a huge reward in hopes of making that happen. The man from Boulder, Colo., is referring to son Ryder, who hasn’t been seen since January 17. The 20-year-old was seen at 3pm on that day, just after his shift at the Eldora Ski Resort near Nederland; there have been no confirmed sightings since and leads have dried up, reports the Daily Camera. Ryder Johnson’s car was found parked at Gross Dam Road that evening, and the Gross Reservoir was searched afterward. Now, friends and family have put together a $100,000 reward for information leading to the younger Johnson, the arrest of anyone potentially involved, or items he had on him when he vanished.

The Denver Channel reports the reward’s distribution will be at the family’s discretion. “It’s been pretty frustrating,“ said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle in early February. “They’re just not finding anything,“ he said of his investigation. The Camera reported that foul play is possible, but there’s no evidence to that end. The other “working theories” are that he went into the mountains and harmed himself, or vanished to start a new life. Pelle called those two the “strongest possibilities.“ A severed foot found in a hiking boot in June at the ski resort was determined not to belong to Johnson; KDVR reports 180 acres around the resort were searched after the boot was found. The reward will expire on January 17, 2017.


►   Teen Peeved With Parents’ Vacation Choice Calls 911

Is Trent Hills, Ontario, really that bad? A 15-year-old girl “forced” to go to the Canadian vacation spot by her parents last week apparently thought so—and called 911 with her emergency, the CBC reports. Police who responded to the cottage the family rented were not amused. “This appeared to be a case of a teenager being a teenager,” local Constable Stephen Bates told the Toronto Star. “Although she perceived this as a real issue, it was not an appropriate use of 911.” The girl was given a warning about misusing police resources, Bates says, “which could impact the safety of others in the community who are in real need of assistance.“


►   At America’s Prisons, Ramen More Precious Than Cigarettes

So long, tobacco: There’s a new most-prized currency in America’s prisons, at least according to a University of Arizona PhD candidate in sociology: ramen. Michael Gibson-Light’s new study is the culmination of a year’s worth of interviews with about 60 inmates at an unnamed “male state prison in the US Sunbelt,“ per a press release. The upshot: Where cigarettes were once king, “soup is money in here,“ as one convict says. But the reason behind the shift is essentially hunger. Gibson-Light explains that in the early 2000s, a new vendor began supplying the food to the prison he studied in a bid to cut costs. He was told the price per meal was slashed from $2 to $1.25 as a result—and both quality and quantity took a hit. Specifically, three hot meals a day were no more.

Weekday lunches are now cold, and on the weekends only two meals are served; all portion sizes were shrunk. With inmates working and exercising throughout the day, calories—and edible ones at that—became precious. The Guardian reports an ominous anecdote from Gibson-Light: Corrections officers suggested he not eat the prison food, so as to avoid any potential food poisoning. The most popular forms of currency don’t change “unless there’s some drastic change to the value in people using it,“ says Gibson-Light, which signals to him how much food services has degraded. In terms of value, at the prison studied, ramen cost 59 cents a pack but was worth a lot more. One telling example: Five hand-rolled cigarettes, worth $2, can be bought for just one package of ramen.


►   What Saved Crying Toddler in Overturned Boat

Rescuers scrambling to rescue a 23-month-old underneath a boat that had crashed and overturned in Cocoa, Fla., on Friday night could hear the toddler crying, but they couldn’t figure out where the wails were coming from. Those tense moments eventually gave way to relief as little Kennedy Bossard was eventually located, frightened but OK, 45 minutes after rescuers arrived on the scene—all thanks to her life jacket and an air pocket that had kept her safe, News 6 reports. Kennedy was on the boat in the Indian River after dinner with her family—including mom Tammy, dad Brian, and 7-month-old sister Charlotte—when the vessel crashed into a power line and threw the four into the water, per ABC News. “I’m in the river,“ Tammy said in her 911 call. “My boat crashed and I have a baby still in the water. Please God send someone now … please hurry.“

The Cocoa Police Department says on its Facebook page it received several 911 calls and that patrol officers rushed to the scene, quickly locating the other three members of Kennedy’s family with the help of a nearby boater and “multiple agencies.“ Finding Kennedy proved challenging in the dark and cold river, but officers Matt Rush and Alan Worthy persevered until they tracked her down floating in the air pocket and yanked her to safety. “I just can’t imagine,“ Tammy Bossard said of what her daughter’s fate could have been, per CNN, becoming emotional as she thanked rescuers for “saving our baby and saving our world.“ All four family members were taken to the hospital to be checked out and are in good condition, though the Bossards say Kennedy is at slight risk for developing asthma because of the stress on her lungs.

In The World….

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►   Germany Wants Citizens to Stockpile Food

Germany doesn’t want its citizens to panic—but it would like them to be a little more prepared for an attack or a disaster. According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the German government plans bring back its Cold War-era requirement for people to stockpile enough food for 10 days and enough drinking water for five, as well as medicine and other supplies. The government is also planning to boost security by bringing in a nationwide alarm system.

A “Concept for Civil Defense” plan that will be discussed by lawmakers this week says an armed invasion of German territory is unlikely, but citizens should “prepare appropriately for a development that could threaten our existence and cannot be categorically ruled out in the future.“ Reuters notes that the new civil defense plan comes amid other security measures, including major increases in police funding and the creation of a new anti-terror unit.


►   After Protest Gesture, Medalist Can Never Return Home

If they awarded Olympic medals for bravery, Feyisa Lilesa would have a gold to add to his marathon silver. The Ethiopian runner crossed his wrists above his head at the end of the men’s marathon in Rio to show solidarity with protesters in his homeland, and he says the government will probably kill him if he ever goes home again, the Los Angeles Times reports. Lilesa says security forces have slaughtered hundreds of members of his Oromo tribe in a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. He says some of his relatives are already in prison and he doesn’t know what will happen to his wife and two children, who are still in Ethiopia, the New York Times reports.

“If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed maybe they will put me in prison,“ Lilesa tells the Sydney Morning Herald. He’s not sure where he will go now, but he says the US and Kenya are possibilities. NBC New York reports that rights group say scores of protesters—many of them making the same gesture as Lelisa—have been gunned down at protests over the last few months. Lelisa’s “career with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation ended tonight,“ tweeted OPride editor Mohammed Ademo. “But his courageous act of protest is one for the history books.“


►   Pyongyang Threatens Washington as War Games Begin

South Korea and the United States began annual military drills Monday despite North Korea’s threat of nuclear strikes in response to the exercises that it calls an invasion rehearsal. Such fiery rhetoric by Pyongyang is not unusual. But the latest warning comes at a time of more tension following the defection of a senior North Korean diplomat and a US plan to place a high-tech defense missile system in South Korea, the AP reports. The North’s military said in a statement Monday that it will turn Seoul and Washington into “a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike” if they show any signs of aggression toward the North’s territory.

The North’s “first-strike” units are ready to mount retaliatory attacks on South Korean and US forces involved in the drills, according to the statement, carried by Pyongyang’s state media. South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed “strong” regret over the North’s warning, saying the drills are defensive in nature. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began Monday for a 12-day run are largely computer-simulated war games. The training involves 25,000 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the US and South Korean militaries.


►   Iran Sounds Angry at Russia for Blabbing About Using Its Base

Russia has stopped using an Iranian air base for launching airstrikes on Syria for the time being, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, just hours after the Iranian defense minister criticized Moscow for having a “kind of show-off and ungentlemanly” attitude by publicizing their actions, reports the AP. There was no immediate response from Moscow, which had used the Shahid Nojeh Air Base to refuel its bombers striking Syria at least three times last week. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran that the Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request.“ He added that “it is finished, for now,“ without elaborating.

Last week, Russia announced it used the airfield, located about 30 miles north of the Iranian city of Hamedan. Iranian officials confirmed Russia’s presence a day later. Responding to a question on state TV Monday about why Iran didn’t initially announce Russia’s presence at the airfield, defense chief Gen. Hossein Dehghan Dehghan appeared prickly. “Russians are interested to show they are a superpower to guarantee their share in political future of Syria and, of course, there has been a kind of show-off and ungentlemanly (attitude) in this field,“ he said. His remarks suggest Russia and Iran initially agreed to keep Moscow’s use of the air base quiet.


►   As War Games Begin, N. Korea Threatens to Turn DC to ‘Ashes’

South Korea and the United States began annual military drills Monday despite North Korea’s threat of nuclear strikes in response to the exercises that it calls an invasion rehearsal. Such fiery rhetoric by Pyongyang is not unusual, but the latest warning comes at a time of more tension following the defection of a senior North Korean diplomat and a US plan to place a high-tech defense missile system in South Korea, the AP reports. The North’s military said in a statement Monday that it will turn Seoul and Washington into “a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike” if they show any signs of aggression toward the North’s territory.

The North’s “first-strike” units are ready to mount retaliatory attacks on South Korean and US forces involved in the drills, according to the statement, carried by Pyongyang’s state media. South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed “strong” regret over the North’s warning, saying the drills are defensive in nature. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began Monday for a 12-day run are largely computer-simulated war games. The training involves 25,000 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the US and South Korean militaries.


►   Suspect in Timbuktu Shrines’ Destruction: ‘I Am Really Sorry’

When Islamic rebels backed by al-Qaeda infiltrated Timbuktu in 2012, they wreaked havoc in the Malian city and destroyed Muslim shrines, including nine mausoleums and the door of a mosque that had remained shut for hundreds of years, per the Guardian. Now Ahmad al-Mahdi, a former employee with Mali’s education department, is facing war crimes charges at the Hague for directing this cultural decimation, pleading guilty Monday at the international criminal court—the ICC’s first prosecution of such a case, the New York Times reports. “All the charges brought against me are accurate and correct. I am really sorry,“ al-Mahdi told the court, noting his following of Islam led him to repent. “We have to be truthful, even if it burns our own hands.“ And the lead prosecutor says al-Mahdi used his own hands during the rampage, showing “determination and focus” to turn the revered structures to rubble.

“We must eliminate from the landscape everything that doesn’t belong,“ al-Mahdi, believed to be around 40, said in a 2012 video shown in court. Although he could have faced up to 30 years in prison, al-Mahdi struck a deal that will likely net him just nine to 11 years behind bars. Although al-Madhi was suspected of other crimes, too, the ICC prosecutor purposely limited charges to the cultural destruction as a symbolic move, per Swissinfo.ch. Some experts say the case could spur the prosecution of other culturally related war crimes in countries like Iraq and Syria, which the ICC doesn’t have reach over. Al-Mahdi promised in court he wouldn’t commit such a transgression ever again, asked Timbuktu residents to forgive him “as a son who has lost his way,“ and said he hoped the “evil spirits” that took him over will be purged in prison, per the Guardian. (A dissenting opinion in the Guardian.)


►   Irish Woman, Friend Live-Tweet 48-Hour Trip to Get Abortion

The @TwoWomenTravel Twitter account has just 28 tweets, but it had quite a turnout over the weekend, racking up more than 25,000 followers as one of the two women live-tweeted her excursion to get an abortion, the Belfast Telegraph reports. The Irish woman and a friend documented their 48-hour trip to obtain a legal abortion in Britain, as the procedure is banned in Ireland unless the mother’s life (not merely her health) is at risk. The Irish Family Planning Association site notes at least 10 Irish women a day have to leave home to get an abortion, with at least 165,000 women and girls heading to UK clinics between 1980 and 2015. The live tweets for this woman’s ordeal went from boarding the plane in Ireland to a series of waiting rooms in a British clinic, where the women noted they were exhausted and hungry from their travels—“We could be home by noon in another world,“ they noted. The procedure itself was “safe” and “quick” and attended to by a “warm” staff, they said.

One “cc” included in nearly every tweet: that of @EndaKennyTD, the Twitter handle for Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who’s been accused of stalling on talks to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which is behind the abortion ban, per Ireland’s Independent. The women received support, including from Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, who tweeted, “Thanks to @TwoWomenTravel for telling story of reality which faces many.“ The two women had their own thanks to offer, “with one glaring exception” (apparently Kenny). Women who head to England to get an abortion “do not choose to be shamed into the secrecy, panic, and guilt that the journey to leave their home country inspires,“ the women behind the tweets wrote in their final post.

Glenville State College

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Jeff Dolan Named New Glenville State Men’s Basketball Assistant

Jeff Dolan has been named the new Assistant Coach for the Glenville State College Pioneer Men’s Basketball team.

Dolan grew up in Conifer, Colorado, where he attended Conifer High School.  Jeff played four years of Varsity and was the all-time leading scorer and assist leader in school history.  In his senior season he lead the Conifer Lobos to their best season in school history reaching the first elite eight state tournament appearance and was all elected as All State Colorado.  Upon graduation Dolan attended Western State College (2007-2008) and transferred Colorado Mesa University (2008-2011) where he played 2 years of college basketball.  While at Colorado Mesa University, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Administration.  In 2015, Dolan graduated from Canisius College with a Masters in Sports Administration and is currently getting Masters in Business Administration from Southern New Hampshire University.

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Dolan started his coaching career with Shining Stars Basketball and Next Level Basketball AAU basketball associations in Denver, Colorado.  The teams traveled across the country and competed in national events and played against some of the best high school talent in the United States.  Jeff then continued his coaching career to Taos High school in Taos, New Mexico as an assistant coach under Daniel Trujillo where he helped lead the Tigers to their first district championship in twelve years and elite eight of the state tournament.  After Taos High School, Dolan was then hired as the Head Coach at his alma mater, Conifer High School.  He later resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas, under Head Coach Rusty Grafel. While at Colby, Dolan helped recruit across the country and create a positive learning environment for the Colby basketball program.

Dolan also has coached at Thomas Jefferson High School.  One of the best 4A schools in the Denver Metro Area. He was the varsity assistant under Coach Grant Laman.  Dolan helped Coach Laman lead the Thomas Jefferson Spartans to a Centaurus Tournament Championship, a second place finish in the 4A Denver Public School league, and first round 4A state tournament bid.

Dolan went to Lamar Community College from Colby when Head Coach Sercan Fenerci took over the program.  The team saw a very quick turnaround between the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters. Under the guidance of Coach Fenerci and Coach Dolan, the team implemented a high pace style of basketball and improved from an overall record of 2-13 in the fall semester to an 8-5 regular season finish in the spring. They then took second in the Region 9 south finishing with a 19-11 record in the 2015-2016 season and placed every sophomore to a 4 year institution.

“It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to join the Glenville State Basketball program as the assistant coach. I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the coaches and players in the coming days, and I have great respect for Glenville State and the Mountain East Conference for its long-standing heritage and success,” stated Dolan.

“As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Glenville State supporters that I will help continue the tradition that has been created by the coaching staff.  I am eager to get on campus and start the season,” said Dolan.

Will The “Fix the Debt” Manipulators Ever Reform Themselves?

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I’ll say this for them: The Wall Street billionaires and corporate CEOs behind the “Campaign to Fix the Debt” have a lot of nerve. Once again they’re using cheap scare tactics, along with some manipulative “nudging,” to drum up support for cutting Social Security benefits.

The money behind the latest scare campaign – “How Old Will You Be When Social Security’s Funds Run Out?” – also funds a TV ad that shows jobs, teachers, and roads and bridges vanishing, supposedly because the national debt wasn’t brought under control.

That’s pretty cynical, since their own ideas have led to lost jobs, teacher layoffs, and a lack of funds to repair roads and bridges.

Another ad says that people should confront politicians and “ask for a plan” – by which they mean a plan for reducing the national debt, not a plan for creating jobs, hiring more teachers, or repairing roads and bridges.

As we were saying: Some nerve.

There’s no need to revisit the evidence against Wall Street’s top executives, or the fact that many Wall Streeters are involved with Fix the Debt. There’s no need to recap the hidden agenda behind this campaign, or the fact that these would-be Social Security slashers all have great retirement plans of their own.

It is, however, worth mentioning that Fix the Debt’s CEOs reportedly avoided an estimated $1 billion in taxes between 2009 and 2011 with a single tax loophole.

They apparently feel this billion-dollar dodge gives them a solid moral foundation from which to propose benefit cuts for the elderly, the disabled, and children – because, they say, the government isn’t collecting enough revenue.

“How Old Will You Be When Social Security’s Funds Run Out?”

It’s a trick question: Social Security’s funds are never going to run out. If nothing is changed – if, for example, billionaires like the ones funding Fix the Debt don’t pay more in taxes – Social Security’s retiree trust fund is expected to run out of money in 2034.

But even without any changes at all, Social Security would be capable of paying a majority of its current benefits … forever. That’s because it will continue to collect revenue forever (or at least the foreseeable future).

“Don’t think it will affect you very much?” the email continues. “We have a new tool that may change your mind.” A link then takes you to a calculator, where you type in your birth year and are told what percentage of your lifetime benefits could be lost. Then another link encourages you to “design your own fix” and takes you to something called “the Reformer.”

“The Reformer” may sound like the name of a sadistic assistant vice principal’s favorite paddle, but it’s actually an online calculator for modeling different Social Security budget alternatives. The first page offers nine different benefit cuts, along with their expected budgetary impact, and invites viewers to choose among them. The second tab offers six more benefit cuts.

Know what they don’t show? The percentage of your lifetime benefits that would be lost under these cuts.

Funny. That figure seemed so important a moment ago …

The second tab also offers three benefit increases, but they’re relatively small. An across-the-board benefit hike is not offered as an option, even though polling shows it’s popular among both conservative and liberal voters.

The last tab finally offers viewers the opportunity to increase revenues, including by removing the payroll tax cap. That’s a step forward, since this crowd’s tools have tended to overlook revenue altogether. But it doesn’t give users a way to apply the Social Security payroll tax to investment income – a proposal that would target Wall Streeters and highly compensated CEOs like those in Fix the Debt.

That’s another striking omission, especially since Hillary Clinton (hardly an unknown entity in Wall Street circles) proposed it during the Democratic primary.

But they managed to include an option entitled “Invest in the Stock Market,” where we’re told that “diversify(ing) the trust fund to increase returns” would reduce Social Security’s 75-year shortfall by 21 percent. What we’re not told is that it’s a risky proposition for Americans – but a great one for Wall Street’s investment funds.

This is a rather crude example of a technique that economists call “nudge,” where choices are presented in an ostensibly neutral way that subtly manipulates people toward a desired outcome. (Desired by the manipulators, that is.)

It takes four clicks – with a lot of work in between – before revenue enhancement is even mentioned. Most people will only see the alarming and deceptive statement about “funds running out.” Very few will get to the revenue. And when they do, important options will be missing.

But the sales pitch for Wall Street will be there.

Maya MacGuineas – who runs both Fix the Debt and its sister organization, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – also sent out an email this week saying that “we can’t borrow our way to prosperity.” Actually, as Paul Krugman and others have explained, that’s precisely how we can do it: by borrowing now, when the government can obtain funds at extraordinarily low rates, to invest in jobs and growth.

When more people are employed, when inequality goes down and middle-class wages go up, Social Security’s revenues will go up, too. Somehow, despite all the money that’s been spent by Peterson’s organizations, this fundamental economic principle has been overlooked.

They must be panicking a little. For the first time in years, neither party’s presidential candidate says they want to cut Social Security. Hillary Clinton even says she wants to expand it (though she qualifies that statement somewhat).

Still, desperation is no excuse for bad behavior. It’s wrong to deceive and manipulate the public for selfish ends. They should stop trying to “reform” Social Security and start reforming their own behavior instead.

Who knows? Maybe there’s even a “nudge” for that.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

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