First Team All State Football—Gilmer County High School

Gilmer County High School landed six players on the 2016 Class A High School Football All-State Team. 

Cousins Trey Shuff and Cole Haley were named to First Team Defense as Utility and Linebacker, respectively. 

Jason Montgomery was named to Second Team Offense Outside Linebacker. 

Gunnar Haley was named Special Honorable Mention,  and Bryce Roberts and Will Greene as Honorable Mention. 

GCHS finished the season with an impressive 11-1 season, the best in school history, advancing to the second round of playoffs.

The Free Press WV
(L to R): Bryce Roberts, son of Mary Jo Roberts and Pat Roberts; Will Greene, son of James Green;
Gunnar Haley and Cole Haley ,sons of Mike and Monica Haley; Trey Shuff,  son of Steve and Jessica Shuff ;
and Jason Montgomery, son of Mark and Charlene Montgomery of Linn.

Complete statewide list can be viewed in SPORTS section.

The Free Press WV


In West Virginia Coal Country, Voters Are ‘Thrilled’ About Donald Trump

The Free Press WV

Bill Nesselrotte owns a coal company that doesn’t mine coal anymore. Still, a few days each week, he straps on a backpack and pushes through the brush to collect jars of water from streams, ponds, wells and springs — samples to prove to the government that he’s not a polluter.

There has been no drilling, no blasting for more than two years on the 150 acres Nesselrotte leases here — not since the bottom dropped out of a market that once provided a good livelihood for him and a couple dozen other people in West Virginia’s dramatically narrow valleys. These days, his mine is nothing but a rock-crushing business, selling limestone to anyone who shows up with a dump truck, $150 a load, barely enough to keep one man employed.

But to keep crushing rocks, Nesselrotte must keep his coal permits active, and that means collecting water samples, 48 trips a month. A slew of other new rules keeps him at his dining-room table, slaving over paperwork deep into the night. Such burdens are, he says, a major reason 76 percent of Upshur County voters last month put their trust in the man who promised to slash government regulations and bring back coal — Donald Trump.

Coal country offers a counterweight to the palpable anxiety about Trump in some parts of the country. Here, people said they are “euphoric” and “thrilled” about the incoming president, even in the valley where Nesselrotte has no customers for his coal. That optimism is pervasive even after Trump last week chose as his commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, the Manhattan billionaire who in 2006 owned the mine just down the hill, where an underground explosion killed 12 miners, the region’s worst coal disaster in decades.

“West Virginians are realists,” said Nesselrotte, a mining engineer by education and a serial entrepreneur by virtue of living in a place that still depends on coal, even though nearly every mine within an hour’s drive has closed in recent years. “The mines have been shut down, the railroads have been torn up, the preparation plants have closed. A lot of stuff has been done that can’t be undone.

“But I’m really looking forward to this president,” he said. “It’s kind of refreshing to see people come into government who know how business works.”

Still, for some, especially for families who felt the mine disaster firsthand, the naming of Ross has dulled the thrill of Trump’s victory.

“I don’t like that choice,” Vickie Boni, 74, said. “I always felt the company was responsible.”

Boni’s ex-husband, John Boni, was the fire boss, in charge of checking safety at the Sago Mine. Five days before the explosion, he alerted superiors to a leak of dangerous methane gas. A freak lightning strike ignited the methane, investigators later said. Right after the explosion, John Boni retired, after 36 years in the mines. A few months later, he put a bullet in his head.

Still, Vickie Boni remains optimistic that Trump will live up to his promise to restore coal jobs. “That’s people’s livelihoods,” she said. Her father went into the mines at 14 and was killed in a mine at 44. Her son might have ended up mining, too, but there was no work, so he moved to North Carolina, a story that many older parents here tell about their now-distant children.

Ross did not respond to a request for comment about the Sago disaster. An inveterate buyer of deeply troubled companies, he had bought the mine only a couple of months before the explosion and was not on-site when the men were killed. In a televised interview in 2006, soon after the tragedy, Ross told ABC that he knew the mine had been cited with 208 violations, that he accepted responsibility for the disaster, that he had not made a personal contribution toward a fund for the miners’ families, and that his company “never scrimped on safety expenditures.”

Several investigations concluded that the mine’s owner, International Coal Group, was responsible for the safety violations, but that the violations did not cause the explosion. Only one miner who was trapped survived.

Helen Winans’s son Marshall died at Sago, and although she blames the company for what happened, she does not see Ross as culpable.

“It wasn’t his fault,” she said, “it was the people here. People went into the mine unprotected because they’d been drinking. The company should have had better safety, and the inspectors should have the sense to shut them down and slap fines on them, but it’s dangerous work.”

Dangerous, but essential, she said: Before the price of coal collapsed, before the number of working miners in the state fell to a 100-year low of 15,000, miners could make $60,000, even $75,000 a year, without a high school education. Walmart money doesn’t come close.

Winans, 85, lost one son in the mine and another on a gas drilling rig. Her husband died of black lung disease after a life in the mines. Eighteen years later, Winans still hasn’t remarried because marriage would end her black lung benefits.

“The government makes you live in sin,” she said. She’s lived with a man for years, always feeling a bit guilty about it, “but I’m not giving up that money for a piece of paper that says ‘I do.’ ”

Despite the tragedies that have marked her life, Winans prays for the return of coal, and she says Trump will make it happen.

“I like the way he talks — straight,” she said, “not like that Hillary [Clinton], the way she got up there and shook her finger and said she’d shut every mine down. What would that do to West Virginia?” (In March, the Democratic presidential candidate had said in a CNN town hall that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right? . . . Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels.”)

Trump’s appeal here is stylistic as well as policy-driven, said David McCauley, the mayor of Buckhannon, the county seat, a pretty and bustling town of 5,700. It’s about coal, but also about being ornery and oppositional.

“Trump was just what people here have always been — skeptical of government, almost libertarian,” McCauley said. “He’s a West Virginia pipe dream: He’s going to undo the damage to the coal industry and bring back the jobs, and all of our kids down there in North Carolina are going to come home.”

McCauley, who is also a professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College, one of the town’s biggest employers, was taken aback when Trump named Ross.

“The whole history of West Virginia is exploitation by outside influences,” he said. “Now the guy 80 percent of us voted for turns around and nominates one of the least favorite names in Upshur County. If he brings in more billionaires and Mitt Romney is secretary of state, people will say, ‘Well, wait a minute now.’ But if the economy turns around, he’ll get the credit.”

McCauley, 58, is a Republican but not a Trumpian. He was a Jeb Bush delegate and ended up voting for Clinton “because the last thing we need is two or three more Antonin Scalias” on the Supreme Court. Like many here, he doesn’t fit neatly into Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.” He’s pro-abortion rights, pro-gay marriage, he said, “a fervent separation-of-church-and-state guy, a social progressive.” But McCauley is a Republican because government seemed too big and intrusive, and because, as he put it, “you could not move to Buckhannon and settle into a public position without being a Republican. I can do my job better when people say, ‘He’s one of us.’ ”

West Virginia’s Democratic roots are obvious, even though the state hasn’t voted blue in a presidential race since 1996. Upshur County’s delegate to the state legislature, Bill Hamilton, calls himself “an oxymoron Republican,” because he’s closely bound to the unions. Like many here, his skepticism of the big businesses that own many mines sits deep in his bones, and the Sago disaster only cemented that doubt. One miner who was killed was Hamilton’s client at his insurance agency, another was his lockermate from junior high school and a third was a family acquaintance.

Hamilton never worked in the mines, warned away by his father, who toiled underground until he was drafted to fight in World War II, and who lost two brothers to mining. Still, he finds himself fervently hoping Trump will reopen the coal fields and invest in technology to diminish the environmental damage. Coal, he said, remains the state’s lifeline.

But although Hamilton came around to Trump after initially supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, he wonders if the selection of Ross means Trump might not really be a friend to miners. Hamilton has been pushing Congress to pass a bill to preserve pension benefits that thousands of miners are set to lose next year because so many coal companies have gone belly up.

“Ross bought companies and then severed the benefits to make more profit,” Hamilton said. “So do you think that bill’s going to go anywhere now?”

Thomas Toler remains “euphoric” about the Trump win and the prospect of a coal revival. Toler’s uncle was killed in the Sago disaster; the two had worked together in the mines for years. Thomas could never go back underground after the trauma: “It was survivor’s guilt, and just not being able to be there with him.”

But the tragedy made Toler, 55, no less devoted to the industry that defines his family and his community, and he said he misses the mines every day.

“It’s your parents’ and your grandparents’ and your life,” he said. “You just accept the risk, just like driving an automobile or playing football. You have to live. And my uncle, like me, loved it more than anything. If you have a curious mind or any interest in geology, you’re setting foot every day where no man has ever set foot before.”

Toler said his hopes now are bound up in Trump’s presidency. “I guess I really want to believe it’s really going to be different,” he said.

The shuttered Sago Mine is now a gentle, grassy hillside marked only by a chain-link fence. Up the hill, Nesselrotte would like to restore a similarly green cover to the barren rock of his idled surface mine, as he has done at nine other locations through the years.

“All my other mines, you can’t even tell it was ever mined,” he said. “This one, I’m ashamed of.”

But Nesselrotte cannot afford to plant trees at the site, an open wound of brown and gray threaded with black veins of once-precious coal. And he would like to finish mining it first. So he waits, selling the occasional load of rocks, hoping to drill again and to bring back the workers he had to lay off.

“I’m realistic. I know Trump will have to compromise,” Nesselrotte said. But he was “tickled to death” last week when Trump announced a deal in which Carrier, the air-conditioning and heating company, will keep about a thousand jobs in Indiana instead of moving them to Mexico.

“And he’s not even in authority yet,” Nesselrotte marveled. “I’m thinking we could be back in business.”

~~  Marc Fisher ~~

Gilmer County Magistrate Court Report

The Free Press WV
Magistrate Court of Gilmer County, West Virginia
Defendant Offense Disposition
Whit, Tracy A. Driving under the influence of alcohol (24 Hrs. Confinement) Dismissed - Deferred Sentence
Isenhart, Charles Andrew Domestic Battery - Unlawful or intentional physical contact or harm to family or household Dismissed
Sampson, Christopher M. Burglary in the nighttime, break and enter or enter without braking Dismissed
Miller Jr., James M. Knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance without valid prescription Dismissed - Deferred Sentence
Moss, Jonathan I. Domestic Battery - Unlawful or intentional physical contact or harm to family or household (2) Dismissed
Siers, Darlene Sue Driving while license suspended or revoked - General No Contest Plea / Nolo Contender
Hess, Lisa Obtaining money, property and services by false pretenses: Penalties (Larceny) Dismissed - Plea Agreement
Hess, Lisa Tampering with pipes, tubes, wires or electrical conductors: Penalty Guilty Plea Agreement
Cunningham Joseph Thomas Trespass property 1st offense Guilty Plea Agreement
Cunningham Joseph Thomas Petit Larceny, Penalties Dismissed - Plea Agreement
McConico III, Leonard Driving while license suspended or revoked - General Dismissed - Plea Agreement
McConico III, Leonard Speeding Guilty Plea
Muzny, David Allen Speeding Guilty Plea
Beck, Billy Operation without certified inspection or failure to produce certificate Dismissed
Beck, Billy No Insurance Dismissed
Starkey, Leon Carl No Proof of Insurance Dismissed - Proof of Insurance
Arthur, Shawn Denver Speeding Guilty Plea
Ritchie, Ethan Cole Speeding No Contest Plea / Nolo Contender
Garrett, Christopher Lee Speeding No Contest Plea / Nolo Contender
Sylvester, Spencer Sinclair No Insurance Dismissed - Proof of Insurance
Conner, Melvin Lee No Vehicle Insurance Guilty Pleas
Self, Amy Melissa No Proof of Insurance Dismissed - Proof of Insurance
Lucas, Jordan Seth Speeding - 2nd offense Guilty Plea
Sampson, Christopher M Trespass on property other than structure or conveyance (Refusing to leave) No Contest Plea / Nolo Contender
Yoak, Nicole Evelyn No proof of insurance Dismissed - Proof of Insurance
Patterson, Heather Making, issuing worthless checks (3) No Contest Plea / Nolo Contender
Cole, Judy Making, issuing worthless checks (5) Guilty Plea
Meelure, Brandon L. Possession of controlled substance < 15 grams Guilty Plea
Meelure, Brandon L. Driving while license suspended or revoked - 2nd offense Guilty Plea

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   State Accepting Ag Specialty Block Grant Proposals

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is accepting proposals for specialty block grants.

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, maple syrup and Christmas trees, among others. Excluded are livestock, eggs and field crops such as soybeans and corn.

To be considered for funding, projects must focus on industry-related research, education, improved production or marketing of specialty crops. The program is available to groups and organizations and cannot be used to fund individual farms or enterprises.

The grant application deadline is February 17. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

►   REAP Recycling Assistance Grants Awarded

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman today awarded grants totaling $1.8 million to 28 organizations through the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) Recycling Assistance Grants Program.

Secretary Huffman presented the 2017 grants during a ceremony today at the DEP’s Charleston headquarters. Grants were awarded to state solid waste authorities, county commissions, municipalities, private industries, and nonprofit organizations.

Funding for the Recycling Assistance Grant Program is generated through the $1 assessment fee per ton of solid waste disposed at in-state landfills and is provided by WV Code 22-15A-19(h) (1).

The grant recipients are:


Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority: $89,350
To assist with the purchase of a skid loader, forklift, scale systems, and
a single stream roll-off container for the county-wide program.


Cabell County Solid Waste Authority: $147,652
To assist with wages, fuel, maintenance, purchase of recycling trailers,
vertical balers, forklift, pallet jacks, floor scales, operational supplies, utilities,
and public outreach for the county-wide program.

Goodwill Industries of KYOWVA Area: $72, 228.84
To assist with the purchase of a vertical baler, bulk delivery trucks, cube trucks, operational supplies, fuel, educational conference attendance, and truck wraps for the ongoing operation.

Metal Center Recycling: $14,931.07
To assist with the purchase of a forklift and self-dumping hoppers for the ongoing operation.

Mountain Pride Recycling: $40,000
To assist with the purchase of a skid steer for the recycling operation.


Jackson County Solid Waste Authority: $97,483.86
To assist with personnel costs, insulated garage doors, vehicle fuel
and repairs, equipment tires and maintenance, utilities, operational supplies, collection bins, cardboard collection shelter and gravel for the county-wide program.


Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority: $74,194
To assist with trommel screen maintenance and yard waste grinding
expenses for the county-wide program.


Recycling Coalition of West Virginia: $49,500
To assist with WV Recycles Day Educational insert and advertising.

West Virginia State University Research and Development Corp.: $28,883.90
To assist with the purchase of a vertical baler, three-phase electric, and utility vehicle to transport materials for the campus-wide recycling program.


Lincoln County Solid Waste Authority: $23,100
To assist with recycling bin pulls, personnel costs, educational conference attendance, and advertisement for the county-wide program.


Urps Metal Company: $17,768.00
To assist with the purchase of torching supplies, repairs and improvements to
the warehouse and yard, and scrap metal purchase ticket books for the ongoing operation.


City of Bluefield: $19,500
To assist with wages, fuel, vehicle expenses, purchase of recycling bags, office
supplies and other operational supplies for the city-wide program.

Lusk Disposal Service: $75,000
To assist with the purchase of recycling bins for the ongoing cardboard recycling operation.

Mercer County Commission: $97,588
To assist with personnel costs, educational conference attendance, purchase of a recycling truck, trailers, recycling stations and liners, advertising, fuel and maintenance for truck, and printing costs for flyers for a county-wide program.

Mercer County Solid Waste Authority: $124,640
To assist with the purchase of a horizontal baler and conveyor system and
wages for the county-wide program.


PACE Enterprises of WV: $69,840
To assist with wages and employer taxes, vehicle expenses and purchase
office and operational supplies.


Morgan County Solid Waste Authority: $17,580
To assist with personnel costs, POD rental for storage, event expenses, advertising and educational brochures for the ongoing county-wide program.


Nicholas County Solid Waste Authority: $60,160
To assist with construction of a storage building and to purchase a skid steer for the county-wide program.


North Fork Disposal: $53,999.71
To assist with electric and facility upgrades, storage, and the purchase of a forklift, baler, pallet jack and scales for the recycling operation.


Town of Terra Alta: $24,350
To assist with the purchase of a box truck, fuel, bale ties and utilities for the city-wide program.


Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority: $150,000
To assist with the purchase of a roll-off truck, hoist and fuel for county-wide


Ritchie County Solid Waste Authority: $20,105
To assist with vehicle and building maintenance, heater replacement, to purchase loading dock plate, forklift forks, utility trailers, fuel and advertising for the county-wide program.


Roane County Commission: $80,000
To assist with the purchase of a truck, yard ramp, forklift and recycling
trailer for the county-wide recycling program.

Roane County Solid Waste Authority: $126,200
To assist with the completion of the new recycling center, labor wages,
vehicle and equipment maintenance, fuel and utilities for the county-wide


Wayne County Commission: $92,441.82
To assist with the installation of a new ceiling, and insulated doors to improve
the building for the county-wide program.

Wayne County Solid Waste Authority: $19,474.16
To assist with personnel costs, fuel, utilities, maintenance, repairs and office
supplies for the county-wide program.


Zanesville Welfare Organization and Goodwill Industries: $72,240
To assist with the purchase of an electric forklift and horizontal baler and
conveyor system for the ongoing operation.


City of Parkersburg: $98,000
To assist with the purchase of a skid loader, materials for storage containers, asphalt for road improvement and updates to the program’s website for the city-wide program.

►   Barbour County man charged with illegal possession of a firearms

A Barbour County man has been indicted for possessing firearms while being subject to a domestic violence protective order, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced.

Roy Thomas Schroeder, age 46 of Volga, West Virginia, was charged today by a federal grand jury for possessing two.22 caliber revolvers and a .22 caliber rifle after a protective order had issued against him by the Barbour County Magistrate Court.  The crime is alleged to have occurred on October 22, 2016.

Schroeder faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen D. Warner is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The West Virginia State Police, Barbour County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives investigated.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke on the Senate floor on the urgent need to pass the Miners Protection Act, which will protect the health and pensions of more than 120,000 retired coalminers nationwide. With 16,300 retired coal miners set to lose healthcare by December 31, 2016 without Congressional action, the Senators announced that they will continue to block all attempts to pass legislation by unanimous consent in the Senate until the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) healthcare and pension shortfall is adequately addressed to give miners long-term certainty and the benefits they earned over a lifetime of hard work.

“We are coming up on a deadline, a deadline we knew almost 2 years ago we would hit. Because we have been unable to secure a vote, that would keep our promise to the miners and their families who have given so much to this country, I am forced to come to this floor and object to some good pieces of legislation. I want my colleagues to know that I am not objecting to the content or to my friends. I am objecting on behalf of the miners and their families who need their pension and healthcare benefits they have earned.” 

►   Mountaineer Gas to install 45 miles of gas line in the Eastern Panhandle

Officials with Mountaineer Gas plan will hold several meetings early next year to dispel any misinformation about their plan to install more than 45 miles of gas line in the Eastern Panhandle.

Last month the West Virginia Public Service Commission approved phase one of a proposed gas-pipeline expansion that would run roughly 24 miles from Morgan County to Martinsburg near the Cumbo Yard Industrial Park.

Residents have raised concerns about the new pipeline’s impact on the environment, particularly the Back Creek, one of the state’s last clean waterways.

Moses Skaff, Senior Vice President of Mountaineer Gas, said the 10-inch distribution line will have a minimal impact.

“It will require a lot less development of the line,” he said.

Skaff said they will do what’s known as a directional bore that goes underneath the ground.

“You won’t even see the line,” Skaff said. “That will go under the Back Creek and the wetlands completely.”

Still, some remain concerned that the company has not taken into account the region’s karst geology.

Skaff says the expansion will enhance the reliability of the natural-gas supply for the area and provide for the developing commercial and residential needs.

“Right now we only have gas coming up through Martinsburg from the Virginia side,” Skaff said. “If something were to happen to that gas supply, then Martinsburg and all the industries in Martinsburg would be out of gas.”

The new line brings in an additional supply from Columbia Gas in Maryland.

Skaff said they will begin seeking permits in the first quarter of 2017 and construction should start in 2018.

He hopes phase one, which will cost an estimated $30 million, will be completed in late 2018 or early 2019.

Phase two and phase three will bring natural gas into Jefferson County.

They are shorter and travel almost entirely through public right-of-ways so Skaff does not expect them to take as long or cost as much.

He said the entire project should be finished within three or four years.

►   Democrats: McConnell Fix for Miners’ Health Care Inadequate

Senate Democrats blasted a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to temporarily protect health care benefits for thousands of retired coal miners.

The benefits are set to expire at the end of the year, and McConnell said he is working with House Speaker Paul Ryan to include money for the miners in a short-term spending bill slated for a vote this week.

But Democrats said the GOP solution only lasts for a few months and does not protect pension benefits that also are at risk. McConnell’s proposal would pay for miners’ health care for the next four months by seizing money from their current health-care plan, Democrats said.

“The Republican leader is turning his back on American coal miners,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Brown and other Democrats said they will push for a bipartisan bill that would protect retirement and health-care benefits for about 120,000 retired coal miners and their families.

Republicans have blocked a vote on the bill on the Senate floor. McConnell and other GOP leaders are wary of bailing out unionized workers, with some arguing that all coal miners should get the help.

Some Republicans also say the bill could pressure Congress to offer similar help to other cash-strapped pension funds. Their opposition was criticized by Brown and other Democrats.

“We had the chance to protect the retirement and health care coal miners have earned and save taxpayers money in the process, but Washington leaders chose to pull a bait and switch instead,” Brown said. “This is everything that’s wrong with Washington.”

WV Response

Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, said he would block other bills on the Senate floor until miners get their full health care and pension money — about $3 billion over the next 10 years. Manchin warned colleagues they may have to stay through Christmas unless the issue is resolved.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Manchin said retired miners deserve benefits that are now at risk amid the coal industry’s steep decline and bankruptcies of several large mining companies. Without congressional intervention, some of the funds could run out of cash by next year, according to the United Mine Workers of America.

“We are the country that we are because of the hard work that they’ve done,” Manchin said, referring to miners in his state and across Appalachia.

“If we don’t stand for the people that have made our country as great as it is, we stand for nothing,” Manchin said.

WV GOP Senator Shelley Moore Capito issued the following statement Tuesday night about the continuing resolution:

“I’m disappointed that the full Miners Protection Act to address health and pensions benefits for our miners was not included in the continuing resolution that was released tonight. While the short-term, four-month patch will prevent our miners from losing their health care benefits in just a few weeks, we have more work to do. I will continue fighting until a long-term solution is reached.”

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued a statement Tuesday, calling the short-term fix “a slap in the face.”

The statement goes on to say, “Further, the complete exclusion of any language to provide help for the pensions of 120,000 current and future retirees puts America’s coalfield communities on a glide path to deeper economic disaster.

“The notion that Congress needs more time to consider this matter is absurd. This legislation has been before Congress for four years, has been through regular order in the Senate as was requested by the Majority Leader, and was passed by the Senate Finance Committee by an overwhelming margin in September. The time to pass the full Miners Protection Act is now.”

McConnell said his plan would protect benefits for miners suffering from what he called the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” combined with “challenges within the energy market (that) have led to a dramatic increase in bankruptcies and lost coal jobs, exhausting the health benefits of thousands of coal workers and retirees.”

While he recognizes the plan “will not solve the challenges of every coal miner or retiree in Kentucky, this provision will help address many of the health care needs of thousands of miners who fell victim to the steep downturn in coal production,” McConnell said.

►   Justice team taps advisers on economy, energy, environment

The incoming Justice administration has selected chairmen of committees to recommend economic, energy and environmental policies.

Governor-elect Jim Justice’s transition team says four people have been named co-chairs of the committee on economic development.

They are Richard Adams, chief executive of United Bankshares; Charleston attorney and former U.S. Senator Carte Goodwin; Marshall Reynolds, chief executive of printing company Champion Industries; and Woody Thrasher, founder of engineering firm The Thrasher Group.

The committee on energy and environment’s co-chairs are Tony Alexander, former chief executive of electricity generator and distributor FirstEnergy; David Alvarez, president of pipeline company Energy Transportation LLC; Ralph Ballard, of coal mining company WWMV LLC; lobbyist Paul Hardesty; and Mike Ross, a former state senator and founder of drilling company Ross & Wharton Gas Co.

►   Man Pronounced Dead Following Auto-Pedestrian Accident in Upshur County

A man was pronounced dead after he was hit by a dump truck along Route 33 Monday morning.

The Upshur County Sheriff’s Department said James Livengood, 38, of Somerset, PA, was standing along the roadside near his parked R&M Trucking tractor trailer when a 2013 Western Star Dump Truck driven by Richard Marple hit him.

He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


Trump embraces two new Cabinet officers whose backgrounds suggest he’s primed to put tough actions behind his campaign rhetoric on immigration and the environment.


Thousands observe a moment of silence before fighter jets streak across the sky on the 75th anniversary of the attack that plunged the U.S. into World War II.


Assad’s forces capture new neighborhoods around the city center as rebel factions now face a punishing defeat.


The quake, responsible for about 100 deaths, forces thousands of survivors in Aceh province to take refuge in mosques and temporary shelters.


In Texas, rates of schoolchildren who refuse shots for non-medical reasons are climbing.


Both face aggravated arson charges in the blaze that killed 14 people and destroyed or damaged more than 1,700 buildings.


Scientists are on the trail of a potential antidote - an injected “scavenger” that promises to trap and remove the deadly gas from blood within minutes.


The Dow and S&P 500 soar to their biggest gains since the U.S. presidential election and set all-time highs.


The actor said he wanted the documents kept secret to protect the privacy of his and estranged wife Angelina Jolie Pitt’s six children.


Demand for trips to the island may be flattening as hotel prices soar and concern grows that new restrictions could be imposed when Trump takes office.


The Free Press WV

  • Trump’s Taiwan call wasn’t a blunder. It was brilliant. Trump sent the right message. Wahington Post

  • “There’s a lot of anxiety out there… Everything changed overnight.” You think your life is chaotic? Try being an immigration lawyer in the weeks leading up to the Trump administration. It’s not because President Obama was such a friend to undocumented immigrants; his officials have deported 2 million of them in the past eight years. It’s because what Donald Trump has proposed preys on the vulnerabilities felt by the men, women, and children left behind. Some immigrants, fearing deportation, even are asking their attorneys if they can emigrate to Canada. The Atlantic

  • HUD job to pit Carson ideology against long-standing housing policy. The retired neurosurgeon has little experience in the area. Washington Post

Enemies Won’t Ignore Evidence of Trump’s Instability

The Free Press WV

Commentators such as Politico’s Jack Shafer argue the media should ignore President-elect Donald Trump’s outlandish tweets – because they are outlandish and because they distract us from things Trump wants us to ignore.

Shafer has things exactly backward.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake writes, “The job comes with the so-called bully pulpit, and what he says matters and will be the subject of debate no matter what the mainstream media does. Everything he says reverberates. It doesn’t matter if he says it on Twitter or at a news conference; either way it’s going to be consumed by tens of millions of people, and the media has an important role to play when it comes to fact-checking and providing context.“

We find that logic compelling and would add a few additional points.

First, the media can walk and chew gum at the same time. Cable TV news has 24/7 coverage. Online editions of major newspapers and of the broadcast networks have virtually unlimited pixels at their disposal. Even in print newspapers, the most space-limiting format, room can be found not only for a headline “Trump invents voter fraud,“ but also “Trump’s business connections threaten to deepen the swamp” and “Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution reignites concerns.“

If one suspects Trump is trying to distract us, as opposed to getting himself distracted to an alarming degree, how much more important is it to explain, for example, that “Trump takes to Twitter to distract from secretary of state paralysis”? (But unless someone is privy to the inner thoughts of Trump, we really do not know the “motive” for his tweets.) In any event, covering tweets does not negate coverage of his other missteps; to the contrary, it should underscore his continued difficulty in performing a job he really never planned to hold.

Second, we would argue that there is no more important story than the continuous stream of evidence of the president-elect’s irrationality and instability. Hillary Clinton certainly thought that was relevant to the campaign (it was); the mental and intellectual status of the man we elected should be of even greater concern.

We can hardly think of more important topics than these:

  • How are we to trust the decision-making of a president so easily waylaid by nonsense?
  • Does Trump’s lack of attention span and refusal to read make him susceptible to conspiracy theories?
  • Can he continue his willful indifference to reality and still govern?
  • Do his personal grievances interfere with his ability to function as president?
  • Who, if anyone, can reason with a man this irrational?

Third, our allies and enemies are constantly taking the measure of our president-elect. They will continue to assess Trump’s presidency throughout the next four years. (Is he easily fooled? Does he have the attention span to stick with issues? Can he be confused and distracted? Is his word reliable?) If every world leader takes into account Trump’s public pronouncements and makes strategic decisions based, in part, on those utterances, the voters surely should be privy to the same information.

In sum, no one can assess at this stage whether Trump tweets strategically or compulsively, whether he means what he tweets or simply tweets to blow off steam, and whether he understands the importance of a president’s words. Perhaps clarity will come with time. For now, however, his utterances on Twitter and elsewhere give critical insight into the mind-set of the least-prepared man ever to win the presidency.

The media’s central task now and in the months ahead is to explain to the American people precisely who it is they elected – his shortcomings, his blind spots, his emotional state and his decision-making process.

Turning a blind eye to his unfiltered outbursts would be journalistic malpractice. Worse, it would shield the public from the unpleasant reality, the consequences of their electoral decision, which they must now endure for four (if not eight) years.

Jennifer Rubin - The Washington Post

In USA….

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►   ‘Perfect Storm’ Leaves Thousands of Geese Dead in Mine Pit

A “perfect storm” of a late migration and a snowstorm left thousands of snow geese dead in the toxic waters of an old mine pit in Montana last week, authorities. A spokesman for the Montana Resources mine company says witnesses described the scene as “700 acres of dead birds” after the migrating geese landed on the contaminated Berkeley Pit water in Butte on November 28, the AP reports. But the spokesman stresses that the number of birds in the area were “beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude” and employees “did incredible things to save a lot of birds and they really put their heart and soul behind it.“

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Authorities say the birds landed at the pit because their usual landing site and several others were mostly frozen, leaving the Butte site with the area’s only open water. The mine company spokesman says employees are now using spotlights, noise makers, and other methods to keeps birds away from the pit, which holds around 45 billion gallons of contaminated water. He says that the death toll is expected to be many time more than the 342 that died in a 1995 incident, when snow geese drank pit water high in sulfuric acid, the Billings Gazette reports. The company says it is continuing to monitor bird movements in the area and is looking at using technologies including drones to keep them away from the pit.

►   Time Person of the Year Is Who You Think It Is

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Time is out with its Person of the Year, and it’s none other than Donald Trump. “The revolution he stirred feels fully American, with its echoes of populists past, of Andrew Jackson and Huey Long and, at its most sinister, Joe McCarthy and Charles Coughlin,“ writes Nancy Gibbs in the explanation. The magazine revealed the pick Wednesday morning. “To be on the cover of Time as Person of the Year is a tremendous honor,“ Trump told Matt Lauer on Today. It’s actually his 10th time on the cover, though nine of those have come since August 2015. Mark Zuckerberg and gymnast Simone Biles were among those on the short list.

►   Lowe’s Hires Veteran —and His Service Dog

Some customers at a Lowe’s store in Texas are getting tag-team assistance from a military veteran and his service dog after both were hired to work at the store, the AP reports. The Abilene Reporter-News reports that US Air Force veteran Clay Luthy and his golden retriever, Charlotte, both wear red and blue Lowe’s vests to work at the home improvement retailer. Luthy has had five surgeries on his knees and can’t bend his left leg. Charlotte is trained to help Luthy up if he can’t get off the floor. Charlotte has become a customer favorite in her two months on the job. Luthy says everyone loves the pooch, adding: “This definitely was not part of the job description.“

►   Cops Nab Robbery Suspects and Their Unlikely ‘Accomplice’

Two suspects in a weekend break-in at a Massachusetts convenience store had a fowl accomplice. Northampton officers investigating a robbery in progress at a store at about 3:45am Sunday quickly found two men and a live rooster in a nearby car. The men were arrested on breaking and entering and other charges, and the stolen property was recovered, the AP reports. The rooster was not charged, but was taken to the station for safe keeping. Police said on their official Facebook page that while they have provided temporary shelter for a variety of animals before, this was the first rooster. There was no word on why the suspects had the bird. Their names were not released.

►   Comatose Patient’s 16-Year Mystery Is Solved

Nobody’s exactly sure how it came to be—maybe it was related to a route number or perhaps to the auto shop that handled the accident—but a comatose patient lying in a hospital bed in California came to be legally identified as Sixty-Six Garage. His caretakers didn’t like it, because they felt it belittled his situation, explains a feature in the California Sunday Magazine. That situation, however, was short on essential details: The only thing authorities knew about the young man is that he sustained a serious head injury when a truck with immigrants from Mexico crashed on the US side of the border. He wound up in a San Diego hospital and then in a nursing home in Coronado—and he lay there for 16 years known officially as Sixty-Six Garage.

Over the years, the quest to identify the silent man slowly gained steam, thanks largely to a woman—a total stranger—who learned of his fate while visiting one of her own relatives in the hospital and made it her mission to see him reunited with his family. As she spread the word, thousands of Mexican families reached out in the hope that the man might be their missing son, brother, or cousin. (Members of one family were certain of it until DNA tests proved otherwise.) Finally, the mystery was solved when the case gained so much attention that “people with power” wanted it solved, writes Brooke Jarvis. Border Control investigators took the man’s fingerprints and found a match with a young man picked up a few months before the accident. He’d “been in the system all along.“ He has a name now, though the family requests privacy. Click for the full, fascinating story, which looks at the surprisingly large part of the internet devoted to families searching for missing immigrants.

►   Mistrial Declared for SC Cop Charged in Walter Scott’s Death

South Carolina Circuit Judge Clifton Newman declared a mistrial after a jury said it could not reach a verdict after four days of deliberation in the murder trial of a white police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist, reports the AP. Former patrolman Michael Slager was charged with murder in the April 2015 death of 50-year-old Walter Scott. The judge had said the jury could also consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Cellphone video showing taken by a bystander that showed Scott being shot in the back shocked the country, inflaming the national debate about how blacks are treated by police. After the video went public, Slager was fired and charged with murder. Scott’s family called for peace in North Charleston, calls for calm believed to have helped prevent the violence that erupted elsewhere when black men were killed by law enforcement.

Scott was pulled for a broken taillight and then fled his 1990 Mercedes, running into a vacant lot. Family said he may have run because he was worried about going to jail because he was $18,000 behind on child support. The prosecution argued that the 35-year-old Slager let his sense of authority get the better of him. The defense maintained that the two men wrestled on the ground, that Scott got control of Slager’s stun gun and pointed it at the officer before the shooting. The defense also contended there was no way Slager could tell if Scott was armed. Much testimony centered on the cellphone video, which at times was blurry and shaky. The jurors saw the video numerous times, including several times frame by frame. Last year, North Charleston reached a $6.5 million civil settlement with Scott’s family. Slager faces trial next year on federal charges of depriving Scott of his civil rights.

►   Arguers Take Fight to the Mat—Filled With Legos: Cops

As any parent can tell you, walking over Legos with bare feet can be excruciating—but how it feels to roll around in them requires further clarification. One person who may able to lend some insight: Jesse William Robert Jenkins, a 23-year-old Maryland man who was arrested Thursday after a scuffle involving several other people at a Tyaskin home, reports. Details are scarce, but police say an argument broke out, Jenkins hurled someone onto the ground, and then a third person stepped in to break things up, and that person and Jenkins ended up on the floor and rolling around on top of a bunch of tiny plastic bricks. Jenkins was charged with second-degree assault and reportedly suffered injuries, though it’s not clear what those injuries were.

►   1 Dead in Texas Sinkhole

A Texas sinkhole claimed a life Sunday night. A car driving through standing water entered the San Antonio sinkhole; another passing car stopped, and occupants of that car helped the original driver, a man in his 60s. Both that man and a woman who stopped to help were transported to a nearby hospital, KENS5 reports. But investigators later discovered another car trapped in the sinkhole and said a man was unaccounted for; the Dallas News has since reported the sinkhole had resulted in one fatality. The sinkhole, which opened as a result of a sewer line rupture, was the length of the entire street and 12 feet deep.

►   Muslim Transit Worker Shoved Down Stairs at Grand Central

A Muslim transit worker was called a “terrorist” and pushed down a flight of stairs in New York City on Monday, two days after police say a man threatened to slit the throat of a Muslim NYPD officer. Soha Salama, 45, suffered a twisted knee and swollen ankle. She says she was riding a train to work while wearing her Metropolitan Transportation Authority uniform and a head covering when a man confronted her, reports NBC New York. “He kept telling me I should go back to my country. He said, ‘You’re a terrorist. You shouldn’t work here.‘“ Police say he followed her into Grand Central Terminal and pushed her down the flight of stairs, per CBS New York.

The NYPD says reports of hate crimes have spiked since the election—the department has logged 43 cases, compared to 20 during the same period in 2015. Of the new ones, four have involved Muslim victims. In a case similar to Monday’s incident, police say two men harassed a Muslim woman on the subway on Thursday, calling her a “f—-ing terrorist,“ per NBC New York. Asked Monday whether he blamed Donald Trump for the uptick, Mayor de Blasio said: “It’s obviously more complicated than that. It is not linear.“ But, notes the AP, he accused Trump of “hate speech” and saying “horrible things” about Muslims.

►   This Gives Whole New Meaning to ‘Coffee Pot’

Get ready for a whole lot of “wake and bake” jokes. Eater reports cannabis coffee pods will soon be available for purchase in six states. The pods from BrewBudz are Keurig-compatible and come in regular and decaf, as well as hot chocolate and a variety of teas. “It’s an opportunity to bring together two different rituals in life,“ Westword quotes BrewBudz vice president Jeffry Paul as saying. The pods use the full cannabis flower—not extracts or oils—and contain 10mg of THC for “recreational users” and 25mg to 50mg of CBD for “medical users.“ Energizing strains of cannabis are used for the caffeinated coffees and teas, while nighttime teas get relaxing strains.

Paul tells Fox 11 that the coffee has no marijuana smell or taste once brewed, making it good for people who need marijuana for health reasons but don’t necessarily enjoy it. The teas still have some marijuana flavor to them but overall taste “excellent,“ Paul says. And unlike K-cups—the creator of which says he regrets inventing because of their wastefulness—BrewBudz’s pods are made from recycled coffee beans and are 100% compostable, Quartz reports. They are also, at $7 a pop, more expensive than your traditional K-cup, though Eater notes “that’s cheaper than a Starbucks latte and a joint.“ BrewBudz pods are rolling out between now and March.

►   Backpage Wasn’t Always a Haven for Sex Ads has a reputation of being the seedy home for online sex ads, and one stat puts a point on it: Of the $50 million in revenue it earned in California from January 2013 to March 2015, 99% of it came from adult ads, notes the Ringer. “It is, in essence, an escort advertising network nestled in a Craigslist knockoff,“ writes Kate Knibbs. But does that make its execs criminals? Prosecutors think so, having charged CEO Carl Ferrer with, among other things, “pimping a minor” because the site is accused of not cracking down on ads with underage girls. They’ve also charged founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin with conspiracy to commit pimping. Knibbs takes a deep dive into how Backpage came to be and how the case is being closely watched in the online world because of its free-speech implications. “Digital Pimps or Fearless Publishers?“ sums up the headline.

One interesting part of the back story is that Lacey and Larkin hail from a journalism background as owners of Village Voice Media. They launched Backpage because they were losing so much ad money to Craigslist and wanted to keep their “journalism passion project afloat,“ writes Knibbs. The site foundered as a general classifieds site, but it took off when Craigslist ditched its adult section, and those ads gravitated to Backpage. The criminal case hinges on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which holds that websites aren’t responsible for content posted by users. Knibbs has her own view: “It is inarguably, flagrantly bad that it’s easier to target children because of online classified sites,“ she writes. But if it’s true that Backpage’s honchos haven’t done all they could to stop the sex work of minors, “that makes them mercenaries and menaces,“ she concludes. “What it does not make them is pimps.“ Click for the FULL STORY.

►   47 Years After Girl’s Abduction, a Big Break

Australian police are again chasing a mysterious suspect almost 47 years after a British girl disappeared from a beach during a family trip. Cheryl Grimmer’s family had recently moved to Australia when police believe the 3-year-old was abducted from changing rooms at Fairy Meadow Beach in Wollongong on January 12, 1970. Investigators had little to go on apart from a ransom note that led nowhere and witness reports that a man was seen running toward a parking lot with a blonde girl in a towel. But when witnesses—aged 9 to 12 at the time of the crime—gathered for a re-enactment of the abduction two weeks ago, they described something investigators had apparently missed: a male, possibly 17 or 18, lurking near the changing rooms prior to Cheryl’s disappearance, reports the Times.

“He was just seen loitering … in the morning and the afternoon,“ a detective says. Authorities believe the male—white with brown hair and blue eyes—may have snatched Cheryl after her brother, Ricky, took her to the ladies’ changing room and then left to go get his mother, per Ricky Grimmer and his two brothers are now asking the suspect to come forward so they can fulfill a promise to their mother, who died three years ago, to find out what happened to Cheryl. “Just let us know where she is, give us something so we can mourn,“ Grimmer says, adding he’s “never forgiven” himself for the abduction. “It’s cost me and my family everything.“ A $100,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest, per AAP.

►   Ohio’s Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Now on John Kasich’s Desk

Governor John Kasich has a new bill on his desk, and if he signs it, Ohio will have the toughest abortion laws in the US, USA Today reports. The “heartbeat bill,“ which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is found (sometimes as early as six weeks), doesn’t allow for rape or incest exceptions, though abortions to save the mother’s life are OK. Per, the bill was unexpectedly shoehorned Tuesday into child abuse and child neglect legislation, with Kasich able to veto just that item or refuse the entire deal. Ohio Republicans, including Kasich, had previously balked at such a bill, feeling it wouldn’t stand up to constitutional challenges—Roe v. Wade makes it illegal for states to ban abortions before a fetus is viable—but some feel empowered by the coming Trump presidency and a future Trump Supreme Court pick. “[Trump has] changed the dynamic,“ GOP state Senate President Keith Faber told reporters, per

Not surprisingly, abortion rights supporters are speaking out against the development, including Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor, who last year spoke about her rape and abortion. “You might as well call me a baby killer,“ she says, per USA Today. Others take issue with the bill’s 11th-hour passage. “To slip it in at the last minute where there’s ... no opportunity for people to really voice their opinion says we can’t trust our legislators,“ Iris Harvey, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, tells One GOPer still not sure this bill is the way to go is Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis. “Everyone is swept up in Trumpmania, but let’s be realistic,“ he tells USA Today. He’d prefer a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, a bill Kasich could approve instead of this one when and if such a bill ever makes its way to him.

►   ‘China’s Walter White’ Tried to Solve Australia’s Drug Dearth

A 46-year-old chemistry professor identified only as Zhang, but who Time notes has been called “China’s Walter White” in reference to the lead character of AMC’s Breaking Bad, was convicted Tuesday of whipping up and selling 32 kilos of drugs—though prosecutors think the amount produced was really 10 times that, and included methylone and “zombie drug” Flakka. Per China Radio International, Zhang and his helpers—CRI says three men besides Zhang were involved, while Time speaks of “two accomplices"—took in $600,000 a month exporting drugs manufactured in an industrial park in Wuhan, Hubei province. The BBC notes the drugs were sold in the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia.

Zhang apparently hit upon the idea to create a Heisenberg-like drug factory in 2005 after visiting Australia and discovering certain psychoactive drugs were hard to come by there. He apparently wanted to please his customers, custom-creating drugs based on their needs by experimenting with various chemical techniques, per CRI. Workers were also trained to manufacture the drugs in bulk, and the drugs were said to be sent overseas via Western Union and via bitcoin transactions. The scheme fell apart in November 2015, when customs officers discovered parcels containing some of Zhang’s product; his lab was raided in June. Zhang and his workers tried to avoid charges by insisting they were creating the drugs for research purposes, not for consumption. No date has been announced for sentencing.

In The World….

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►   Dozens Dead in Indonesia Quake

A strong earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Aceh province early Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and sparking a frantic rescue effort in the rubble of dozens of collapsed and damaged buildings. Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman, chief of the army in Aceh, says at least 97 died while four people were pulled from the rubble alive, the AP reports. A rescue effort involving thousands of villagers, soldiers, and police is concentrated on Meureudu, a severely affected town in the Pidie Jaya district. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency says at least 273 people were injured, about a quarter of them seriously. Some 245 buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, mostly in Pidie Jaya, including 14 mosques.

The director of Chik Ditiro General Hospital in Pidie Jaya says the facility, which was damaged by the quake, is overwhelmed with the numbers of injured, and many people are being treated in tents pitched on its grounds. He says five of the quake victims died at the hospital. The US Geological Survey says the shallow 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck at 5:03am local time about 12 miles southeast of Sigli, a town near the northern tip of Aceh. It didn’t generate a tsunami. For Acehnese, the quake was a terrifying reminder of their region’s vulnerability to natural disasters. More than 100,000 died in Aceh after the December 26, 2004, earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami.

►   Strangers Find, Help Cleaner Seen Gazing at Gold

Nazer al-Islam Abdul Karim was looking through a shop window at a jewelry display in Saudi Arabia when he saw “a flash.“ Days later, he’s swimming in gifts. An unknown individual had snapped a photo of Abdul Karim, a cleaner in Riyadh, and posted it to Instagram with a caption that translates to “this man deserves to only look at rubbish,“ per the Telegraph. When Abdullah Al-Qahtani saw the photo, he was outraged and immediately sought help on Twitter to find the man. “I received tons of phone calls and messages in response,“ Al-Qahtani tells CNN. Three hours later, Abdul Karim, 65, had been found after Twitter users used reflections in the window pane in the photo to pin down his location.

“I was just doing my job as a cleaner in the municipality and found myself in front of the gold shop.“ Then “I heard that my photo was in the media,“ says Abdul Karim, who’s now received donations from complete strangers. The Telegraph lists just some of the items he’s received, including money, rice, honey, an iPhone 7, a Samsung Galaxy, and the opportunity to travel to his home country of Bangladesh. Al Qahtani, 38—who uses Twitter to connect those in need in Riyadh with social media users—has also posted photos of Abdul Karim with a gold chain and earrings from the very store he was admiring in the Instagram photo. “I am very happy about the gifts and very thankful,“ the cleaner says.

►   Japanese leader Abe to visit Pearl Harbor with Obama

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor with U.S. President Barack Obama at the end of this month, becoming the first leader of his country to go to the site of the Japanese attack that propelled the United States into World War II.

Monday’s unexpected announcement came two days before the 75th anniversary of the attack and six months after Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the memorial in Hiroshima for victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of that city at the end of the same war.

Abe, in a brief statement to reporters, said he would visit Hawaii on December 26 and 27 to pray for the war dead at the naval base at Pearl Harbor and to hold a final summit meeting with Obama before the latter’s presidency ends.

“We must never repeat the tragedy of the war,“ he said. “I would like to send this commitment. At the same time, I would like to send a message of reconciliation between Japan and the U.S.“

The White House confirmed a meeting in Hawaii on December 27, saying “the two leaders’ visit will showcase the power of reconciliation that has turned former adversaries into the closest of allies, united by common interests and shared values.“

More than 2,300 U.S. servicemen died in the aerial attack, which will be marked Wednesday by a remembrance ceremony and a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., when the Japanese planes hit their first target.

Three and a half years later, the war came to an end after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and on the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Japan surrendered six days later.

Obama’s decision to visit Hiroshima in May divided Americans and was broadly welcomed in Japan. Abe said Monday that Obama’s message aiming for a world without nuclear weapons still touches the hearts of many Japanese.

In the seven decades since the war, the United States and Japan have become staunch allies in one of the more remarkable turnarounds of former enemies in world history.

“Our talks in Hawaii will be a chance to show the rest of the world our ever stronger alliance in the future,“ Abe said.

The announcement of the summit comes as Japan worries about the direction of U.S. foreign policy under Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.

There were mixed reactions to the timing of Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit.

Together with Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, it will complete the reconciliation process and help smooth bilateral relations under any administration, said Tsuneo Watanabe, a senior research fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. “Historical disputes tend to be brought up when relations become thorny ... but once you put them behind and move on, it makes a difference if there is any negative sentiment in the future,“ he said.

But Koichi Nakano, a professor of international politics at Tokyo’s Sophia University, said Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit and his commitment to the Japan-U.S. alliance in the future are tantamount to “giving a blank check to Trump” despite the uncertainty over bilateral relations under his administration.

The president-elect said during the campaign that Japan and other allies should contribute more to the cost of stationing U.S. troops in their countries. About 50,000 American troops are based in Japan.

Abe met with Trump in New York last month. He wouldn’t disclose details, but said that Trump is a leader he can have great confidence in.

►   Italy faces political, economic uncertainty after referendum

Italian voters dealt Premier Matteo Renzi a resounding rebuke by rejecting his proposed constitutional reforms, plunging Europe’s fourth-largest economy into political and economic uncertainty Monday.

Renzi announced he would quit following Sunday’s referendum vote, in which 60 percent of voters rejected his proposals and signaled they wanted a change in political direction. Renzi, who had boldly staked his political future on winning the referendum, was expected to hand in his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella later Monday.

The unexpectedly large margin of defeat with a robust voter turnout of 68.5 percent appeared to rule out any chance that Renzi would be offered another shot at forming a government. Analysts did, however, expect Mattarella to ask Renzi to stay on long enough to pass the new budget, with a target date of December 23.

The vote energized the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader has allied himself with far-right figures in Europe including France’s Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front.

While Italy’s opposition parties were united in antipathy for Renzi’s policies and reform course, they have little else in common and have already begun vying to position themselves for a new election, although the timing of any vote remained unclear. Analysts expect that Mattarella will appoint a transition government to draft a new election law, with speculation centering on either Renzi’s finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, or the president of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, to lead the effort.

But that course is already facing opposition.

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini called for an immediate election this winter “because real change happens only through electoral victory.“

The current election law, which Renzi wanted to reform, would hand a huge bonus of seats to the lower house while maintaining a proportional system for the upper house, raising the potential for parliamentary gridlock.

With much wrangling ahead, the risk facing Italy is “a prolonged muddle-through period, the emergence of an ineffective, patched-up coalition government in the postelection phase and continuously poor economic performance,“ said Wolfango Piccoli, a political analyst at the Teneo Intelligence consultancy.

European partners sought to downplay the risk for the common euro currency and European unity.

“This is a crisis of government, not a crisis of state, and it’s not the end of the West. But it’s certainly not a positive contribution against the backdrop of the crisis in Europe,“ German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Athens.

The EU finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, told reporters in Brussels that “I’m very confident in the capacity of the eurozone to resist all kind of shocks.“

The main stock index in Milan was volatile. It opened down 2 percent, with many bank shares suspended due to excessive volatility, but recovered to trade down only 0.9 percent.

Investors had been anticipating Renzi’s defeat for several days, and had sold off Italian stocks and bonds. Monday’s sanguine market reaction can also be attributed to the fact that Italy’s markets indirectly enjoy a big backstop from the European Central Bank.

The central bank for the 19-country eurozone is buying 80 billion euros ($85 billion) every month in bonds, including government debt, across the currency bloc. It is expected on Thursday to decide to extend that program beyond its current end date of March. The bond purchases aim to boost growth and inflation but also effectively help keep low government borrowing rates. That is crucial for Italy, which has a massive public debt load of 130 percent of GDP.

Italy’s 10-year bond yield was stable at 2.03 percent on Monday. That’s up from 1.65 percent last month but is still very low for a highly indebted country like Italy. It’s also far short of the 7 percent rate that in 2012 had created fears that Italy might default and fall out of the euro.

Still, the result cast doubts on the ability of Italy’s third-largest lender and the worst performer in last summer’s EU stress test, Monte Paschi di Siena, to execute a rescue plan that includes a 5 billion euro market recapitalization. Advisers are meeting to discuss the vote’s impact, according to Italian media. Italy’s biggest bank, UniCredit, also is to present to analysts its new business plan next week in London.

Renzi swept into power 2½ years ago on a pledge to dismantle the system, claiming the moniker of demolisher. His brash ways divided his own party, however, and his confidence was widely perceived as arrogance, even in other European capitals and especially in Brussels, where he had grown increasingly bold in pressing for flexibility on the budget.

“I lost and the post that gets eliminated is mine,“ Renzi said early Monday after the polls closed. “The government’s experience is over.“

►   Oxford Grad Sues University Over His Failed Law Career

An Oxford University graduate says the prestigious school’s “appallingly bad” teaching is why he failed to become a successful lawyer, so he’s suing it for $1.27 million, the American Lawyer reports. Faiz Siddiqui graduated Oxford in 2000 with a degree in modern history and later studied to become a lawyer. According to the Guardian, the 38-year-old claims he would be a “high-flying commercial barrister” by now if Oxford had given him better grades—grades he certainly would have earned had the teaching at Oxford not been “boring” and “negligent.“

Siddiqui’s specific issue is with a course on Indian imperial history he took during his final year. His lawyer claims Siddiqui and a dozen or so other students received unusually low grades in the course due to a “specific problem with the teaching.“ Oxford admits to some issues with the course, as half of its Asian history teaching staff were on leave at the time. Siddiqui says that not only did the low marks in that course cost him a successful career in law but left him with depression and insomnia. He estimates he’s suffered $1.27 million in lost wages thanks to Oxford. The university tried to get the lawsuit thrown out, but a judge ruled Monday that it “has a case to answer,“ the Oxford Mail reports.

►   A Diminutive Man Bet Against Pearl Harbor, and Won

The man responsible for ravaging America’s Navy 75 years ago this month “stood only three inches taller than five feet and weighed 130 pounds, maybe,“ writes Steve Twomey in a deep dive for Smithsonian on how we got to the morning of December 7, 1941. In roughly 5,000 words,Twomey credits good luck for the effectiveness of Japan’s attack, but also two errors of assumption on America’s part: that Japan would never cross the great and powerful United States, and that it wasn’t militarily and technologically advanced enough to do so. But “as with every innovation, someone gets there first,“ writes Twomey. Credit goes to the petite commander of Japan’s Combined Fleet, Isoroku Yamamoto, for helping get Japan there. Japan had 10 aircraft carriers (America, seven), and Yamamoto realized there was strength in numbers.

He saw the power in joining together six of them—and the dive and torpedo bombers they carried—a few hundred miles off Hawaii. The plan was rife with potential pitfalls: that the fleet would be spotted during its two-week oceanic crossing; that the US fleet would be out on a training exercise on the day in question. And then there was the torpedo issue: With a shallow depth of about 45 feet, Pearl Harbor and its ships were mostly immune to the weapons, which would burrow into the mud. That is until Japan upped the number of stabilizing fins, halting a torpedo’s mid-air roll and shortening its dive. The Navy, unaware, had deemed torpedo nets unnecessary along the harbor’s “Battleship Row.“ It was a fatal combination. Read Twomey’s piece in full HERE for other factors that contributed to our unpreparedness.

►   Plane With 40 Aboard Goes Missing in Pakistan

Pakistan’s national carrier says one of its planes has gone missing after takeoff in the country’s north with about 40 on board, reports the AP. Daniyal Gilani, the spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, says their ATR-42 aircraft carrying around 40 passengers and crew lost touch Wednesday with the control tower. He says all resources are being mobilized to locate the plane. A local police official, Khursheed Tanoli, told state-run Pakistan Television that the plane went down in a village in the northwest and that rescuers are trying to reach the site of the crash.

►   Assange Breaks His Silence on Rape Allegation

Julian Assange claims Swedish police leaked an accuser’s account of a rape allegation against him in 2010 to paint him as a guilty party. Now, he’s telling his side of the story publicly because “I want people to know the truth about how abusive this process has been,“ he says, per the Guardian. In a 19-page document of testimony given to Swedish investigators in an interview last month, Assange says he arrived in Sweden in August 2010 to find his credit cards blocked. His accuser, whom he portrays as an obsessed fan, “appeared to be sympathetic” and “made it very clear that she wanted to have sexual intercourse,“ says Assange. He says the pair had unprotected sex, then arranged to meet the next day so Assange could be tested for STDs.

“You can imagine my disbelief when I woke … to the news that I had been arrested in my absence for ‘rape,‘“ Assange says. According to leaked reports, the accuser told police that she had protected sex with Assange, fell asleep, and awoke to find him penetrating her without a condom. However, Assange suggests the woman never meant to accuse him of rape and was only pressured by police, who he says have proof, via text messages, that she was awake, per the Hill. “I am entirely innocent,“ yet prosecutor Marianne Ny chose “to extinguish my freedom of movement and harm my reputation,“ resulting in “six years of unlawful, politicized detention without charge,“ Assange says. A Swedish Prosecution Authority rep refused to comment, per Reuters.

►   What Syrian Rebels Have Held for Years Is Now Mostly Lost

Syrian government troops and allied militiamen seized more ground in Aleppo’s ancient quarters on Wednesday. With the latest gains, the endgame for Syria’s largest city, which has been carved up between the government and the rebel side for the past four years, appeared to draw even closer. If Aleppo—Syria’s former commercial hub—is captured by government troops (backed by Russia and thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite fighters), it would be a turning point in the conflict, putting the four largest cities in Syria and the coastal region back under state control. The army media said the new gains bring the area controlled by the government in eastern Aleppo to about 73% of its original size, which is estimated to be about 17 square miles, reports the AP. More:

  • Reuters reports the rebels on Wednesday called for a five-day ceasefire to allow civilians and the wounded exit. But their statement didn’t address the Syrian and Russian demand that they withdraw.
  • CNN spoke with an activist who says up to 200,000 have essentially been herded into the 10 rebel-held neighborhoods that remain. They lack a safe way out, and food, gas, and medical supplies are depleted.
  • It’s not the only cry for a ceasefire. President Obama has issued such a demand in concert with the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, France, and Canada; they want UN aid to be able to gain entry to eastern Aleppo, reports the AP. Reuters reports that on Monday, a UN Security Council resolution that would have established a week-long ceasefire was vetoed by China and Russia, with the latter saying it would just give the rebels time to strengthen.

►   Dad Issues Quinceañera Invite; Internet Says Yes, Please

You going to Rubi’s quince? That weirdly has become a popular question after a father’s homemade invitation took off on the Internet. As KTLA explains, it all began when Crescencio Ibarra put up a simple video from his home in La Joya, Mexico. “Hello, how you doing? We invite you on December 26 to our daughter’s Rubi Ibarra García quinceañera party,” he says, referring to the celebration of his daughter’s 15th birthday. In the video, in which his daughter and wife also appear, Ibarra says all are welcome, but he figured only friends and family would see it. Instead, thanks to the mysteries of the internet, the video has been repeatedly shared beyond the borders of Mexico, and now 1.2 million have signed up to go via Facebook.

It’s not clear, of course, how many people will actually show up, but police are planning a big presence just in case, reports the BBC. Ibarra says he will turn nobody away. When the memes first took off, Ibarra made a plea that the joke posts come down, but that seemed to only make things worse, reports Fusion. (Even big names such as actor Gael García Bernal put out a spoof video.) “Probably the funniest part of the invitation is the father’s mention of “una chiva de 10 mil pesos,“ which can have various meanings, depending on where you’re from,“ writes a blogger at the Dallas Morning News. Is it a prize goat worth 10,000 pesos or a race with a prize of that amount? The curious might have to attend to find out.

Deer Hunters In West Virginia Harvest 45,871 Bucks During The 2016 Buck Firearms Season

The Free Press WV

Preliminary data collected from the electronic game checking system indicate deer hunters in West Virginia harvested 45,871 bucks during the two-week buck firearms season which ran from November 21 through December 03, 2016, according to Paul Johansen, chief of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Section.

The 2016 buck harvest is down 25 percent from the 2015 harvest of 60,814. The top 10 counties for buck harvest were:  Preston (1,769), Randolph (1,610), Jackson (1,482), Greenbrier (1,445), Ritchie (1,414), Upshur (1,392), Mason (1,266), Lewis (1,238), Hampshire (1,183) and Wood (1,182).

The buck harvest decreased in all six DNR districts. The buck season harvest was predicted to decrease in the Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook brochure, primarily because of an increased number of acorns in 2016 compared to acorn crop production in 2015. In addition, high winds across much of the state limited deer activity and decreased success rates on the first two days of the season. 

“Hunters continued to use the electronic game checking system established in 2015,“ Johansen said. “Hunters enjoyed the ease of being able to check deer and other game using the telephone, internet or by stopping at a license agent.“

Johansen reminds hunters that several days of deer hunting opportunity still remain for 2016, including the remainder of the muzzleloader season, which runs through Saturday, December 10. The traditional antlerless deer season in selected counties on both public and private land opens Thursday, December 15, and runs through Saturday, December 17. The Youth, Class Q/QQ and Class XS deer season for antlerless deer will be open December26 and 27 in any county with a firearms deer season. This will be followed by the reopening of Class N/NN antlerless deer season December 28-31 in specified counties or portions of counties.

West Virginia Buck Firearms Season Harvest, 2012-2016
County 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Barbour 1177 1109 886 1281 1,094
Brooke 407 389 251 286 267
Hancock 320 273 200 208 206
Harrison 1385 1301 930 1418 1,132
Marion 1089 1130 702 1190 762
Marshall 1309 1051 707 818 726
Monongalia 1297 1107 689 1023 824
Ohio 466 399 232 290 266
Preston 2158 1741 1526 2046 1,769
Taylor 684 635 453 732 579
Tucker 649 527 494 783 726
Wetzel 1471 1537 891 1144 896
District 1 Subtotal 12,412 11,199 7,961 11,219 9,247
Berkeley 767 871 522 908 732
Grant 1250 1135 783 1304 949
Hampshire 1588 1846 1094 1947 1,183
Hardy 1429 1447 920 1709 1,073
Jefferson 526 445 385 499 421
Mineral 1181 1345 835 1335 920
Morgan 602 743 412 678 433
Pendleton 1373 1163 861 1297 1,088
District 2 Subtotal 8,716 8,995 5,812 9,677 6,799
Braxton 1401 1626 921 1660 1,100
Clay 528 475 329 618 388
Lewis 1365 1692 1166 1875 1,238
Nicholas 1212 824 871 1274 1,041
Pocahontas 1152 961 831 1008 920
Randolph 1804 1329 1291 1659 1,610
Upshur 1283 1396 1009 1704 1,392
Webster 817 717 632 1080 941
District 3 Subtotal 9,562 9,020 7,050 10,878 8,630
Fayette 996 835 725 1214 885
Greenbrier 1875 1509 1372 1816 1,445
McDowell 0 0 0 0 0
Mercer 682 536 402 843 633
Monroe 1569 1466 1004 1462 1,092
Raleigh 749 579 506 895 643
Summers 1077 973 657 999 653
Wyoming 0 0 0 0 0
District 4 Subtotal 6,948 5,898 4,666 7,229 5,351
Boone 898 725 519 868 573
Cabell 750 763 421 641 672
Kanawha 1164 1380 730 1547 1,053
Lincoln 1319 1124 720 1312 842
Logan 0 0 0 0 0
Mason 1676 1495 1002 1488 1,266
Mingo 0 0 0 0 0
Putnam 1191 1210 565 1114 987
Wayne 1041 870 528 963 814
District 5 Subtotal 8,039 7,567 4,485 7,933 6,207
Calhoun 770 1164 504 1063 703
Doddridge 950 1243 615 1376 941
Gilmer 911 1427 669 1435 790
Jackson 1630 1917 1107 1870 1,482
Pleasants 371 438 273 492 332
Ritchie 1512 2091 1123 2024 1,414
Roane 1391 1893 927 1846 1,172
Tyler 922 1000 566 1064 850
Wirt 846 1091 681 1152 771
Wood 1403 1580 1011 1556 1,182
District 6 Subtotal 10,706 13,844 7,476 13,878 9,637
State Total 56,383 56,523 37,450 60,814 45,871


The Free Press WV

The College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) announced a goal to increase the number of 12th graders who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or “FAFSA,” to 60 percent by April 15.

According to the agencies map, Calhoun High School is now at the lowest with FASA applications among 55 counties.

The Calhoun school’s college going rate has been near the worst in West Virginia.

April 15 is the deadline for students to submit the form and be considered for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program, which provides grants to students based on their financial need.

This past year (as of November 18), 58.5% percent of high school seniors in the WV class of 2016 completed the FAFSA, which is the primary application for state and federal financial aid for college. Forty-six high schools met or exceeded the 60 percent mark.

Winter Feeding Management of Livestock Program

The Free Press WV

An educational program and informational meeting on conservation management practices to improve winter feeding management of livestock will be held December 12 in Lewis County.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Weston USDA Service Center located on Grass Run Road, Weston, WV.

Jeff Griffith, district conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, will present a program to area farmers on management considerations and options for Winter Feeding Management of Livestock.

Bruce Loyd, WVU Extension agent from Lewis County, will also be on hand.

For more information, contact Griffith at 304.269.8431 x 3, or Loyd at 304.269.4660.

If you need an accommodation to participate in this event, contact Nan Kimble at 304.284.7546, or by e-mail at .

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