More Schools Receive Free Technology Through SecondLaunch Initiative

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The West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) received an update on the SecondLaunch Initiative at its October board meeting. The initiative, which was created by the West Virginia Department of Education in June 2015, continues to expand its reach, providing much needed technology to students throughout the state. Now, in its third year, SecondLaunch has saved the state $3 million in technology costs and has provided more than 8,000 computers to students in 47 counties.

Computers and other technology equipment are donated to SecondLaunch from West Virginia government agencies as well as private industry. Equipment is then wiped, cleaned and upgraded to meet the requirements of the programs used in schools. Computers, monitors, keyboards and mice are packaged together for ease of use and assembly, and schools can pick the computers up at the SecondLaunch warehouse in Charleston.

“Through the SecondLaunch Initiative, we are working to ensure that all students have access to technology and resources they need” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “Our goal is to have the program in all 55 counties, and work with educators to make sure that a lack of resources is never an obstacle for educators to provide the best education possible for our students.”

In addition to state agencies, private industry has also joined in and donated equipment to SecondLaunch.

“The program’s success depends on the donations we receive,” said David Cartwright, who oversees the program. “We have been fortunate to form a partnership with Toyota Motor Manufacturing in West Virginia, who has become a generous and recurring participant. Our hope is to expand our private partnerships so we can continue to see the program grow.”

SecondLaunch helps students interact with the technology they will encounter in life after high school, whether it be college or the workforce. Some of the state’s earliest learners also have access to the SecondLaunch materials, allowing West Virginia students to utilize 21st century learning resources every day.

Learn more about the SecondLaunch initiative by visiting:

Trump’s Muslim Bans Impoverish Us All

Economically, culturally, strategically, and morally, Donald Trump’s obsessive efforts to ban Muslim immigrants and refugees from the United States have impoverished us all. His most recent attempt proves it.

Premeditated Hate

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Hawaii partially blocked Trump’s third attempt at a Muslim ban, saying that it failed to provide “sufficient findings”  to support the rational that allowing immigration from six Muslim-majority nations would harm the United States.

The judge, Derrick K. Watson, cited a Trump campaign document that said, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

On Wednesday a judge in Maryland issued a similar ruling, calling the Administration’s actions “an inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”

Trump’s record is unambiguous. He has issued a long-running stream of ignorant and bigoted comments against Muslims, including:

“I think Islam hates us.” (It does not.)

“We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims. We know our current president (Obama) is one.” (We do not. He is not.)

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” (They did not.)

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Candidate Trump said that he would not rule out creating a database of all Muslims in the country.  He said he would expel all Syrian refugees, despite the fact that it was American military policy that made them refugees in the first place.

He said, “They could be ISIS, I don’t know. This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. “Later he said, “This could make the Trojan horse look like peanuts.”

If you say you’re going to discriminate against all members of a certain religion, and then keep issuing travel bans that almost exclusively affect only members of that religion, it turns out that judges remember what you said, take you at your word, and conclude that’s what you meant to do.

A Threat to Security

Trump argues that his ban makes us safer, but a bipartisan group of national security officials filed an affidavit in response to his first attempt at a Muslim ban that said, in part,

“We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer … It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships. It will aid ISIL’s propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam … It will have a damaging humanitarian and economic impact on the lives and jobs of American citizens and residents.”

Some of these officials oversaw highly aggressive and ill-advised military actions in the Middle East, as well as substantial intrusions into civil liberties at home.  They are not predisposed to “give peace a chance,” or to err on the side of privacy and other ideals.  They may not be credible on every issue, but if they say Trump’s ban makes us less safe, there’s every reason to believe them.

Costly Prejudice

A Muslim ban is certainly not going to help us economically.  As we first reported last September, an interdisciplinary task force convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that “immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the United States.”

But what about refugees? People who are fleeing political oppression in other countries typically need some help when they arrive. Surely we can’t afford that, can we? it turns out that we can. Even if you accept the mechanistic, zero-some view of thinking behind austerity economics and the bipartisan fixation on deficit spending –  and, really, you shouldn’t – that’s no reason to turn refugees away from our shores.

A new Working Paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that refugees pay more into the government in taxes than they take out in services. Economists William N. Evans and Daniel Fitzgerald found that “over their first 20 years in the United States, refugees who arrived as adults aged 18-45 contributed more in taxes than they received in relocation benefits and other public assistance.”

That means deficit-obsessed politicians should be looking for ways to accept more refugees, not less.

Lady Liberty, Resistance Icon

At its heart, this isn’t an economic issue. It’s about who we are. For many years we thought of ourselves as the last, best hope for refugees feeling oppression and immigrants seeking a better life. Like millions of other people, my paternal grandparents came here because they faced religious persecution and a campaign of extermination in the country of their birth. They were welcomed, as their fellow refugees should be welcomed today.

We didn’t always live up to our ideals, but our sense of ourselves as a place of refuge bound us together in a shared sense of community.

Now, in order to defend hatred and Trump’s unconscionable ban, event these ideals and  sense of community have come under attack.

First, a Trump administration official attacked the iconic Emma Lazarus poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty, one of our most evocative and unifying national symbols.

32-year-old White House aide Stephen Miller, who looks less like an uptight young person than an uptight old person in larval form, echoed a longstanding but empty-headed talking point from the Far Right whose views he promotes, when he argued that the poem was “added later.” (The poem was written to raise funds for the statue.)

A few days later, the sensitive Mr. Miller was joined in hyper-indignation by his ideological soulmates at alt-right outlet

A rant by John Carney, a Breitbart editor, was apparently triggered by a photograph of Jennifer Lawrence that showed the Statue of Liberty in the background. “The opposition media,” Carney tweeted, “can’t even do fashion without attacking us.”

For Trump and his supporters, it seems, a symbol of national unity is an attack on their ideology.

Come to think of it, they may be right.

An Attack On Us All

Trump’s policies divide us by race and religion, even as his party’s policies further divide us into haves and have-nots. At some point, it was probably always going to be necessary for them to attack our unifying symbols. How else can they advance the politics of division?

As a nation we define ourselves as one people, regardless of identity. And as even George W. Bush now says, an identity-based attack on any group of people, therefore, is an attack on us as a national community. And a refusal to help people in need because of their identity, anywhere in the world, is an insult to our national morality.

We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation. But most of all, we should welcome them because it is the right and moral thing to do.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~


(1) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

“We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation.“

WRONG - Diversity in populations has been proven to be, not helpful to society, but harmful.  Immigrant groups who refuse to assimilate are a problem not a benefit, and will remain a problem until they do assimilate.

It’s understood that not all Muslims are terrorists, but for practical purposes all terrorists are Muslims.  And please spare me the Timothy McVey arguments.  McVey and his ilk were loners.  Muslim terrorists are part of an organized movement.

I think almost all immigration should cease until the present immigrant population can be dealt with, through assimilation or otherwise.


Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne  on  10.22.2017

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West Virginia News

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►  WV to receive nearly $25M in HUD grants

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, and Joe Manchin, D-WV, announced a total of $24,922,939 for West Virginia from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday.

Funding will go toward state and local efforts to improve quality of life and support economic development in communities across the state. The resources will also help ensure the supply of affordable housing and support services for low-income and homeless families and those impacted by HIV/AIDS.

►  WV struggling with increase in foster children

More than 6,100 children are in the West Virginia foster care system as of October and the number keeps growing, according to the acting Bureau for Children and Families commissioner Linda Watts.

Watts spoke Tuesday morning to the Joint Commission of Children and Families and told legislators that number had increased in just a few months. Just 16 months ago, about 5,200 children were in foster care in the state, so the increase has amounted to about 18 percent in that time.

The best thing to reverse the trend, she said, is gaining control of the opioid epidemic that plagues the state, because that is a major factor in the growth of children who have been placed in the foster care system.

The types of issues and behavioral problems the children have also are increasing, Watts said. Children struggle with trauma, mental health issues, aggression and other behavioral problems, making it hard to get children adopted, which in turn can add to trauma.

Watts said referrals are sometimes coming in faster than the bureau can respond.

Part of the problem is there are not enough Child Protective Services workers. Watts said that agency is struggling to fill positions while at the same time struggling to retain employees.

She said some of the issues they face with retention and recruitment are competitive salary, the amount of time that is physically required from the employee and just the overall influx of cases.

“This is not an appealing job when you tell them the truth about going into a home where there may be needles and drugs, parents on drugs,“ Watts said. “But it is a job that has to be done to save our kids.“

There is also a lack of foster families, along with group homes and treatment facilities. Currently, there are more than 300 children in out-of-state facilities.

Watts told legislators what they really can do to help is work with all agencies to solve the opioid epidemic.

“Until we get this under control, we as a bureau are going to see our numbers increasing,“ she said.

She also added no one yet

knows what effect the drug epidemic has on children, particularly those children born after being exposed to drugs in the womb.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,“ she said.

The legislature may also be able to help the bureau expand its Safe at Home program, which works with wrap-around services to unify families or keep them together in the first place. The program currently only serves children ages 12-17, but Watts said the bureau could expand to a younger population. The issue is the grant funding for the program expires in 2019. It takes more than a year to get approval to expand the program, so Watts said the bureau just did not think it was worth it, time wise.

Committee chair Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, told Watts there may be a way for the legislature to help expand and maintain that successful program.

►  Attorney General Morrisey’s Deputy Solicitor Appointed As Top Lawyer for FCC

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey congratulated Deputy Solicitor General Thomas M. Johnson, Jr. on his appointment as general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC formally announced the appointment Thursday morning. He joins the FCC next week.

“I congratulate Tom on receiving this tremendous opportunity,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Tom most recently led our office’s successful defense of the state’s Workplace Freedom Act and has repeatedly played a valuable role in our fight against federal overreach, including the dismantling of the Obama-era, job-killing Power Plan.

“Tom’s presence will be missed, but I know our nation will immensely benefit from his expertise and diligence. I thank him for his service to West Virginia and wish him the best of luck in this new endeavor.”

Deputy Solicitor General Johnson came to the Attorney General’s Office in 2016 upon leaving his role as Of Counsel at the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C. He previously clerked for Judge Jerry E. Smith of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston.

“I am grateful to Attorney General Morrisey for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of West Virginia and honored to have worked with such a talented and devoted group of attorneys during my time here,” Deputy Solicitor General Johnson said. “Attorney General Morrisey’s unwavering commitment to excellence and the rule of law will serve me well in this next opportunity for public service.”

Deputy Solicitor General Johnson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School where he was deputy editor in chief of the Harvard Journal on Law and Public Policy. He also holds a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in government from Georgetown University.

The FCC’s Office of General Counsel serves as the chief legal advisor to the FCC and its various bureaus and offices. It also represents the FCC in litigation and recommends decisions in adjudicatory matters before the FCC, as well as assists the FCC in its decision-making capacity and performs a variety of legal functions regarding internal and other administrative matters.

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►  ACA enrollment schedule may lock millions into unwanted health plans

Millions of Americans with insurance through the Affordable Care Act could find themselves locked into health plans they do not want for the coming year because of the Trump administration’s schedule for the enrollment season that starts in less than two weeks.

The complication arises when people who already have health plans under the law are automatically re-enrolled in the same plan. In the past, a few million consumers each year have been auto-enrolled and then were sent government notices encouraging them to check whether they could find better or more affordable coverage.

This time, according to a federal document obtained by The Washington Post, the automatic enrollment will take place after it is too late to make any changes. Auto-enrollment will occur immediately after the last day of the ACA sign-up season, which the Trump administration has shortened, leaving the vast majority of such consumers stranded without any way to switch to a plan they might prefer.

That inability is particularly problematic at the moment, health policy specialists say, because political turmoil surrounding the sprawling health care law has contributed to spikes in 2018 insurance rates that might catch customers by surprise, as well as widespread public confusion about this fifth year’s enrollment season.

The administration’s unannounced decision about the nuances of auto-enrollment is part of a pattern in which Donald Trump’s antipathy for the ACA - he erroneously terms its insurances exchanges “dead” - has filtered into a series of actions and inactions that could suppress the number of Americans who receive coverage through the marketplaces for 2018.

The sign-up period is to run from November 1 to December 15 - half the duration of the past three years. Last month, federal health officials announced that they were slashing by 90 percent the money devoted to outreach and advertising aimed at uninsured Americans eligible for ACA coverage and people already covered who need to sign up again. At the same time, funding for enrollment helpers, known as navigators, has been curtailed by about 40 percent.

Last week, Trump took two dramatic steps that are likely to weaken the ACA marketplaces further. He ended billions of dollars in reimbursements to marketplace insurers for discounts the law requires them to provide to lower-income customers for deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. And the president signed an executive order that, over time, is likely to make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy relatively inexpensive health plans that can circumvent consumer protections and medical benefits required under the law.

How the renewal of current customers in ACA marketplaces will be handled is one of several crucial questions about the workings of the imminent enrollment period that have remained murky as November 1 approaches.

According to the document, “Consumer Timelines,“ from the Health and Human Services Department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing ACA marketplaces, the automatic re-enrollment will take place starting December 16, the day after the enrollment season ends. That is the same date as the past three years, but before, when the sign-up period lasted until January 31, consumers had time to go into, the website for the federal insurance exchange on which most states rely, and either shop for a more affordable plan or drop their coverage.

Asked about the timing, CMS officials on Friday did not specifically confirm the auto-enrollment date but issued a statement that said: “Similar to Medicare’s open-enrollment period, if you miss the deadline to enroll in a plan of your choice, you will not be able to make any changes to your plan until the next coverage year” except for a small number of people eligible for a special enrollment period because of moves, marriages, new babies or other life changes. The statement said that auto-enrollment will happen this year and that “we encourage all consumers to shop and pick a plan that best suits their health-care needs.“

Last year, 2.8 million Americans - or nearly one quarter of the 12.2 million with ACA health plans at the end of the enrollment season for 2017 coverage - were automatically re-enrolled. That figure does not include an unknown number who had received auto-enrollment notices and then chose a different health plan.

It remains unclear whether consumers will be notified of when the automatic enrollment will take place - or that they will be unable to make changes afterward. A page on the website, containing information on how to keep or change a health plan, says that current ACA customers will receive two notices before November 1 - one from the federal marketplace and the other from their insurer. It does not say what information those notices will contain.

Asked to clarify, CMS officials did not provide details and pointed to an August news release that said the $10 million remaining for outreach efforts, down from $100 million last year, would focus on telling consumers about “the new dates of the open-enrollment period through digital media, email, and text messages.“

Consumer advocates and health-policy experts, told of the auto-enrollment timing, were critical. “If they find out after December 15 they’ve been auto-enrolled, there is a real danger people will not be able to pay the premiums - or will drop out,“ said Cheryl Fish-Parcham, director of access initiatives for Families USA, a liberal consumer-health lobby.

“It was never a good idea to auto-enroll. The advice has always been to come back and shop,“ said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. But before, consumers could later choose different coverage. “Now that’s it. The curtain falls.“

►  Appeals court rules teen can’t be denied abortion; gives government time to find her a sponsor

A District of Columbia appeals court has ruled that an undocumented pregnant teenager who is in U.S. custody must be allowed to have an abortion, but gave the federal government until October 31 to find her a sponsor so that the government does not have to facilitate the procedure.

Lawyers for the girl said in court Friday morning that it would be difficult to find a government-approved sponsor, who essentially would take custody of the teen, who is being held in a special detention facility for undocumented minors caught crossing the border into the United States illegally.

The teen, who is identified in court papers as “Jane Doe,“ is 15 weeks pregnant and has been seeking an abortion since late September. Texas law bans abortion after 20 weeks, and requires patients seeking abortions to undergo counseling by a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

Federal judges weighing the case of a Central American teenager seeking to end her pregnancy seemed inclined on Friday to resolve the issue without wading into the explosive mix of immigration and abortion law - but at the same time acknowledged that such action may be impossible.

“Fairly quickly matters. We’re at a point where days matter,“ Judge Patricia Millett said during the emergency hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The 17-year-old’s case reached the federal appeals court in Washington after a District Court judge on Wednesday ordered government officials to allow the teen to have an abortion “without delay.“

The Trump administration appealed, saying it is not obligated to facilitate an abortion in part because the U.S. government has an interest in “promoting child birth and fetal life.“ Lawyers for the government say they are not denying the teenager the right to abortion guaranteed by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, because the girl could voluntarily leave the United States and try to seek an abortion elsewhere or find a sponsor to live with in this country.

At oral argument on Friday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh pressed the government’s attorney several times about why it appears to have a different policy for the teenager, who is identified in court papers as “Jane Doe,“ than it has for pregnant women locked up in federal prison and for adult women in immigration detention.

For those women in federal custody, he noted, the government does facilitate abortions.

Undocumented immigrant minors are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. Under the Trump administration, that office has actively discouraged teens in its custody from having abortions, according to court filings.

The government’s lawyer, Catherine Dorsey, told the court Friday that incarcerated women do not have the same options as the pregnant teen: returning home to seek an abortion or finding a legal sponsor.

But she also acknowledged publicly for the first time that abortion is illegal in the teenager’s homeland. The name of that country has been withheld to protect the teen’s privacy.

Dorsey struggled at times to answer the judges’ questions, repeatedly saying, “I don’t know” and declining to state whether the government believes the teen has a constitutional right to an abortion.

“Even if she has that right, we don’t have to facilitate it,“ Dorsey said, adding that government officials are “looking out for the best interest of the minor child” in federal custody.

Brigitte Amiri, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing the teenager, told the court that two potential sponsors had already fallen through and said the often lengthy process of approving a sponsor includes background checks and possible a home visit.

She urged the court not to set aside its obligation to protect the teen’s constitutional right to abortion just because she may eventually obtain a sponsor, and said the government is not acting in the teen’s best interest.

“They are supplanting their decision about what she should do with her pregnancy,“ Amiri said. “That’s a veto power over her abortion decision.“

A state judge in Texasruled in September that the teen could bypass the state’s parental consent requirement to obtain an abortion.

Millett suggested that a federal policy should not override the decision of a state court judge.

The appeals court allowed the teen to undergo the counseling Texas law requires on Thursday, as ordered by the lower court judge. But the panel has temporarily blocked that judge’s order to allow the abortion to proceed.

The three-judge panel did not indicate when a ruling would be issued, but Kavanaugh concluded the hour-and-a-half long hearing by saying that it would come “soon enough.“

Underscoring the significance and interest in the case, Chief Judge Merrick Garland agreed on Friday to live-stream audio of the oral argument for the first time in 16 years.

Roughly 40 people gathered Friday morning in front of the Department of Health and Human Services to demand “justice for Jane.“ Brought together by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the protesters hoisted signs and sang chants in Spanish and English showing solidarity with the teenager, and expressing contempt for Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“The constitutional right to abortion does not depend on your immigration status,“ said Georgeanne Usova, legislative counsel for the ACLU.

Usova said the group wasn’t just fighting for “this young woman, but every woman in government custody.“

The pregnant teenager faces a “cruel clock that is ticking rapidly,“ said Bethany Van Kampen, a policy analyst for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, given that Texas prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks.

“Where is the voice for Jane? Where is the humanity for Jane?“ she said.

►  Bannon faults George W. Bush for ‘destructive’ presidency

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon depicted former President George W. Bush as bumbling and inept, faulting him for presiding over a “destructive” presidency during his time in the White House.

Bannon’s scathing remarks on Friday night amounted to a retort to a Bush speech in New York earlier this week, in which the 43rd president denounced bigotry in Trump-era American politics and warned that the rise of “nativism,” isolationism and conspiracy theories have clouded the nation’s true identity.

But Bannon, speaking to a capacity crowd at a California Republican Party convention, said Bush had embarrassed himself and didn’t know what he was talking about.

Bannon said Bush has no idea whether “he is coming or going, just like it was when he was president.”

“There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s,” Bannon added, as boos could be heard in the crowd at the mention of Bush’s name.

The remarks came during a speech thick with attacks on the Washington status quo, echoing his call for an “open revolt” against establishment Republicans. He called the “permanent political class” one of the great dangers faced by the country.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the hotel where Bannon spoke, chanting and waving signs — one displaying a Nazi swastika. The protesters were kept behind steel barricades on a plaza across an entrance road at the hotel, largely out of view of people entering for the event. No arrests were reported.

Bannon also took aim at the Silicon Valley and its “lords of technology,” predicting that tech leaders and progressives in the state would try to secede from the union in 10 to 15 years. He called the threat to break up the nation a “living problem.”

He also tried to cheer long-suffering California Republicans, in a state that Trump lost by over 4 million votes and where Republicans have become largely irrelevant in state politics. In Orange County, where the convention was held, several Republican House members are trying to hold onto their seats in districts carried by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.

“You’ve got everything you need to win,” he told them.

He ended his speech with a standing ovation.

Bannon is promoting a field of primary challengers to take on incumbent Republicans in Congress. But in California, the GOP has been fading for years.

The state has become a kind of Republican mausoleum: GOP supporters can relive the glory days by visiting the stately presidential libraries of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, but today Democrats control every statewide office and rule both chambers of the Legislature by commanding margins.

Not all Republicans were glad to see Bannon. In a series of tweets last week, former state Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes said he was shocked by the decision to have the conservative firebrand headline the event.

“It’s a huge step backward and demonstrates that the party remains tone deaf,” Mayes tweeted.

California Republicans have bickered for years over what direction to turn — toward the political center or to the right.

Bannon also argued that the coalition that sent Trump to the White House, including conservatives, Libertarians, populists, economic nationalists, evangelicals, could hold power for decades if they stay unified.

“If you have the wisdom, the strength, the tenacity, to hold that coalition together, we will govern for 50 to 75 years,” he said.

Most of the state’s governors in the 20th century were Republicans, and state voters helped elevate a string of GOP presidential candidates to the White House. But the party’s fortunes started to erode in the late 1990s after a series of measures targeting immigrants, which alienated growing segments of the state’s population.

In 2007, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger warned party members that the GOP was “dying at the box office” and needed to move to the political center and embrace issues like climate change to appeal to a broader range of voters. In 2011, a state Republican Party committee blocked an attempt by moderates to push the state GOP platform toward the center on immigration, abortion, guns and gay rights.

The decline continued. Republicans are now a minor party in many California congressional districts, outnumbered by Democrats and independents. Statewide, Democrats count 3.7 million more voters than the GOP.

Political scientist Jack Pitney, who teaches at Claremont McKenna College, said he doubted the speech would color the 2018 congressional contests, which remain far off for most voters.

More broadly, he said Bannon’s politics would hurt the GOP, including among affluent, well-educated voters who play an important part in county elections.

“Inviting him was a moral and political blunder,” Pitney said in an email.

►  Funeral held for U.S. soldier at center of Trump fight

Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

Some of the 1,200 mourners exiting the church after Saturday’s service said the portrait of Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was joined on stage by photographs of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. The four died October 4 in Niger when they were attacked by militants tied to the Islamic State. Johnson’s family asked reporters to remain outside for the service.

“We have to remember that one thing - that it wasn’t just one soldier who lost his life,” said Berchel Davis, a retired police officer who has six children in the military. He said the preacher and Representative Frederica Wilson both made that a part of their talks. “That was a good gesture on everyone’s part.”

He and others said the fight between Trump and Wilson was never mentioned during the service.

Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia, had held the arm of an Army officer as she led her two young children and her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Community Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale. The modern hymn “I’m Yours” could be heard coming from inside.

Johnson’s sister, Angela Ghent, said after the service that “it don’t feel real” that her brother was killed.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, I haven’t had time to grieve,” said Ghent, who last spoke to her brother a few weeks before he died. She said she was glad mourners got to hear about her brother’s love for bikes and cars, not just his military service.

The fight between Trump and Wilson had taken the focus off Johnson, whose widow is due to have a daughter in January. Sgt. Johnson told friends she will be named La’Shee. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, already had a 6-year-old daughter, Ah’Leeysa, and 2-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 to pay for the children’s education.

Johnson’s mother died when he was 5; he was raised by his aunt. His family enrolled him in 5000 Role Models, a project Wilson began in 1993 when she was an educator where African-American boys are paired with mentors who prepare them for college, vocational school or the military.

“We teach them to be a good man, a good husband and a good father. Sgt. Johnson typified all of those characteristics,” said mourner Carlton Crawl, a public school consultant who is one of the program’s mentors.

In 2013, a year before he enlisted, Johnson was featured in a local television newscast for his ability to do bicycle tricks, earning the nickname “Wheelie King.” He said he learned his tricks by going slow.

“Once you feel comfortable, you could just ride all day,” he told the interviewer.

The war of words between the president and Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Myeshia Johnson in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for” and didn’t appear to know his name, a version later backed up by Johnson’s aunt. Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. She was principal of a school Johnson’s father attended.

Trump tweeted Wilson “fabricated” his statement and the fight escalated through the week. Trump in other tweets called her “wacky” and accused her of “SECRETLY” listening to the phone call.

Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, entered the fray on Thursday. The retired Marine general asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she “talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building,” rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Wilson, who is black, fired back Friday when she told The New York Times: “The White House itself is full white supremacists.”

The retorts persisted on Saturday morning, with Trump tweeting: “I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!”

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►  U.S. failed to stave off Iraq’s advance on Kurds

The U.S. nearly brokered a deal last weekend to avert the current crisis over the disputed city of Kirkuk, where Iraqi forces and some Iranian-supported militias displaced Kurdish fighters this week.

It has been widely reported that Iraqi Security Forces entered Kirkuk and a nearby military base and oil fields because of a deal made by the relatives of the late Jalal Talabani, the former Iraqi president and Kurdish revolutionary who died this month.

That deal, forged by Talabani’s widow, Hero, and others in her family with the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, has uprooted the unity Kurds have enjoyed since the 2003 war to liberate Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government president, Massoud Barzani, has called Hero a traitor, while Kurds loyal to Talabani have accused Barzani of bringing another calamity upon their people.

But this is only part of the story. According to U.S., Kurdish, Iraqi and European officials familiar with the diplomacy, the U.S. special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State group, Brett McGurk, came very close to a face-saving compromise between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, over the weekend before Abadi ordered his forces into Kirkuk.

These officials tell me that the McGurk compromise would wrest Kurdish control of a military air base outside of Kirkuk known as K-1, where many U.S. special operators are currently stationed. Between 2014 and this week, the K-1 base was secured by Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Like the Kurdish fighters stationed in Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields, they took up these positions after the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an Islamic State surge in 2014.

The U.S. compromise would have offered a joint administration of the military base for both Kurds and Iraqis with a U.S. general (agreed to by both sides) to settle disputes. The theory was this would have allowed Abadi to save face after last month’s Kurdish independence referendum while avoiding the trauma of Iraqi forces taking over a multiethnic city that Kurds have long considered their Jerusalem.

But much like the last-minute effort to persuade Kurdish leaders to back off the independence referendum, the U.S. compromise did not convince Abadi to avert the military operation into Kirkuk. According to one Western diplomat who was working on the deal, McGurk asked Abadi for another day on Sunday, only a few hours before he ordered his forces into Kirkuk. But Abadi did not oblige.

The Kirkuk crisis began to boil as early as October 13. That is when Abadi gave Kurdish leaders a 48-hour deadline to remove their forces from Kirkuk and the surrounding areas. This prompted members of both major Kurdish parties – including relatives of Talabani – to frantically call U.S. and British officials to put pressure on Abadi to back off.

By October 14, the Kurdish leadership recognized it had a major problem. Both the Talabani faction and the faction loyal to the current Kurdistan Regional Government president met at Lake Dokan for a summit to discuss Abadi’s warning and the potential compromise to stave off the Iraqi military operation. The location was important because it is a midway point between the regional capital of Irbil, which is traditionally loyal to the Barzani family, and Sulaymaniyah, the seat of power for the Talabani faction.

But the Kurdish summit did not reach consensus on the U.S. compromise. McGurk pleaded for more time with Abadi. But time ran out. By Sunday, Talabani’s widow traveled back to Sulaymaniyah with most of her clan. Later in that day they cut the deal with Iran’s Soleimani. The rest is history.

Now the Kurds have lost their Jerusalem, as Iraqi forces approach what Kurds voted last month should eventually be their independent state’s national borders.

Eli Lake is a Bloomberg View columnist.

►  Populist billionaire’s party wins big in Czech Republic

The centrist ANO movement led by populist Andrej Babis decisively won the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election Saturday in a vote that shifted the country to the right and paved the way for the euroskeptic billionaire to become its next prime minister.

With all votes counted, the Czech Statistics Office said ANO won in a landslide, capturing 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

“It’s a huge success,” the 63-year-old Babis told supporters and journalists at his headquarters in Prague.

Babis is the county’s second-richest man, with a media empire including two major newspapers and a popular radio station.

Although he was a finance minister in the outgoing government until May, many Czechs see him as a maverick outsider with the business acumen to shake up the system. With slogans claiming he can easily fix the country’s problems, he is, for some, the Czech answer to U.S. Donald Trump.

Since the leader of the strongest party usually gets to form a new government, Babis could be the country’s next leader despite being linked to several scandals — including being charged by police with fraud linked to European Union subsidies.

The charges will likely make it difficult for Babis to find the coalition partners he needs to build a parliamentary majority. He didn’t immediately say which parties he preferred but has invited all parties that won seats in parliament for talks.

In a blow to the country’s political elite, four of the top five vote-getting parties Saturday had challenged the traditional political mainstream. Some have exploited fears of immigration and Islam and have been attacking the country’s memberships in the EU and NATO.

The opposition conservative Civic Democrats came in a distant second Saturday with 11.3 percent of the vote, or 25 seats. They were the strongest mainstream party. The Social Democrats, the senior party in the outgoing government, captured only 7.3 percent — 15 seats — while the Christian Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, won only 5.8 percent support or 10 seats.

“It’s a voting hurricane,” analyst Michal Klima told the Czech television, referring to the poor results for the mainstream parties.

The Pirate Party won seats for the first time, coming in third with 10.8 percent of the vote, while the most radical anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party, the Freedom and Direct Democracy, was in fourth place with 10.6 percent support. The two parties won 22 seats each.

Babis’ centrist movement stormed Czech politics four years ago, finishing a surprising second with an anti-corruption message. Babis has also been critical of the EU and opposes setting a date for when his country would adopt the shared euro currency.

Like most Czech parties, ANO also rejects accepting refugees under the EU’s quota system.

But Babis played down his euroskeptic views after his victory.

“We’re oriented on Europe,” he said. “We’re not a threat for democracy. I’m ready to fight for our interests in Brussels. We’re a firm part of the European Union. We’re a firm part of NATO.”

Still, some experts saw a strong shift to the right for the Czech Republic if Babis works out a coalition government with Tomio Okamura, head of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, who wants to ban Islam and organize a referendum to exit the EU.

“Should (Babis) join forces with Okamura, the Czech Republic would be facing difficult times,” Klima said.

A record nine parties and groupings made it into Parliament. Those included the Communists, who got 7.8 percent of the vote and 15 seats, the pro-EU conservatives with 5.3 percent and seven seats and a group of mayors who won 5.2 percent support and six seats.

►  In gritty city outside Caracas, the story of a socialist win

Two years ago voters in Miranda, bewildered by the decay of their once-prosperous nation, delivered a stinging defeat to the ruling socialist party by voting decisively for the opposition in parliamentary elections. But last week the state turned red again.

To Brayand Velasquez’s mind, it’s simple: While the government has provided subsidized homes and bags of food in a nation plagued by economic hardship, opposition politicians not in office or sidelined by the socialists have been mostly absent in resolving daily problems.

“They just give speeches on TV,” said Velasquez, a 30-year-old motorcycle taxi driver in the poor, gritty mountainside city of Guarenas.

Opposition leaders have disputed the surprise result of last Sunday’s elections, in which official election returns show government-backed candidates took 18 of the country’s 23 governorships. But one evident takeaway is that the socialist movement founded by the late President Hugo Chavez can still pull large numbers of voters to the polls.

If the data from the government-friendly National Electoral Council is correct, the opposition received nearly 3 million fewer votes than in 2015, while the ruling party largely maintained the more than 5 million votes it captured two years ago.

Not all that stems from ideological conviction. Some voted for the ruling party out of fear of losing a government job, others not wanting to miss out on a chance to live in one of thousands of new homes President Nicolas Maduro’s government is building for low-income families.

But the turnout for Maduro allies suggests that despite the president’s low approval ratings, crippling inflation and shortages of basic goods, many Venezuelans would still rather cast their ballot for the socialists than for the opposition.

“‘Chavismo’ is still alive,” said David Smilde, a Tulane University professor and expert on Venezuela, using the Spanish word for followers of Chavez’s movement.

Socialist leaders are hoping the unexpected win will boost support going into next year’s presidential election. And there are other factors favoring Chavez’s so-called Bolivarian movement: Deep fractures remain within the opposition camp; emigration by Venezuelans fed up with life under Maduro continues; and low crude prices are forecast to rise in 2018, which could ease the fiscal crisis for this heavily oil-dependent state.

“This election marks a Bolivarian rebirth,” said a triumphant Delcy Rodriguez, a Maduro loyalist and president of a newly installed constitutional assembly that has essentially unchecked powers.

Guarenas, which is home to about 200,000 people east of the nation’s capital, Caracas, is in many ways emblematic of how the government won on Sunday.

Designed as a bedroom community for working- and middle-class families, the city is known as the origin of violent 1989 protests known as the “Caracazo,” which spilled into the capital, left more than 300 people dead and destabilized the government.

After long voting reliably with the socialists, Guarenas went with the opposition two years ago as Venezuela’s crisis deepened. And with long lines still forming daily outside nearly empty supermarkets, polls had favored opposition candidate Carlos Ocariz to win handily Sunday.

But Ocariz garnered just 37,000 votes in Guarenas compared with 57,000 that went for the opposition in 2015. His opponent, Hector Rodriguez, won in the city with nearly 51,000 votes.

A similar trend played out on a statewide level and across much of the nation as opposition candidates were hurt by high abstention rates in their strongholds.

Observers have attributed that to a combination of disillusionment among opposition supporters, contradictory messages from their leaders on whether to vote at all and an overall lack of faith in the country’s electoral system and the possibility of change.

The National Electoral Council’s last-minute decision to relocate dozens of polling places, affecting more than 200,000 voters in Miranda, also may have discouraged opposition voters. Some were moved to sites in rough neighborhoods where groups of armed, pro-government civilians were visibly present.

“There were some people who were driven enough to change the political situation that they risked their lives,” said Yoger Mendez, who volunteered at one of the relocated centers. “But others did not.”

Most polls show no more than 30 percent of Venezuelans identify as “chavista” today, down at least 10 points since Chavez’s death in 2013. Maduro’s own approval rating has dipped as low as 17 percent — a relatively solid number given the country’s dire state, and in the same ballpark as or even better than several Latin American presidents overseeing far healthier economies.

Nicmer Evans, a left-leaning political analyst who is also critical of the government, estimates about half the socialist party vote is the product of coercion while the rest stems from true political conviction.

“The government knows it has profound limitations,” Evans said. “But they also know how to consolidate what they have.”

Opposition leaders so far have presented what they say is evidence of ballot box tampering only in the eastern state of Bolivar. In Miranda and other states, they are pointing to maneuvers such as the voting center relocations and arguing that they depressed opposition turnout. They also accuse the government of using its resources to buoy socialist party candidates, including bringing bags of subsidized food to campaign events and voting centers.

“They won by buying the will of the people,” said Eliezer Sirit, an opposition candidate who lost in Falcon state, “taking advantage of the hunger they themselves created.”

Velasquez, the moto taxi driver in Guarenas, was critical of Miranda’s exiting governor, Henrique Capriles, one of Venezuela’s best known opposition leaders who nearly beat Maduro for the presidency in 2013.

“They called him the ghost governor because he was never around,” Velazquez said. In contrast, he said, he liked the frank way Rodriguez, the socialist candidate, discussed Miranda’s problems and how he planned to solve them.

“He did something important,” Velasquez said. “He listened to the community.”

Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges

Largest Transportation Bond in state history to have 2.145% interest rate, closes on Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Secretary of Transportation Tom Smith are pleased to announce that the interest rate for the first GARVEE bond sale of $260 million, the largest transportation bond in state history, is set at 2.145% and will close on Thursday, October 26, 2017.

“This is another win for West Virginia,” said Governor Justice.  “As a businessman, I know how important it is to aggressively pursue low rates for wise investments and we thought that the interest rate would be in the neighborhood of 3.5%. To get a 2.145% interest rate is great news. I am encouraged by the strong investor demand and these attractive borrowing rates for my Roads to Prosperity Highway Program. West Virginians voted October 7 to climb out of the ditch and stop being 50th and this first bond sale is a fantastic start. We’re on the move.”

“This is a crystal-clear confirmation of the need for wise investment while rates are extremely attractive,” said Secretary Smith.  “A rate of 2.145% is significantly less than the cost of construction inflation and sets us moving exactly in the right direction for the delivery of Governor Justice’s infrastructure program.”

This first of three GARVEE sales will target 18 bridge replacement projects and 13 interstate rehabilitation projects across the State.

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Future Pioneers are invited to participate in Glenville State College’s annual Fall Open House on Saturday, October 21.

Visitors can begin arriving at 8:15 am. at the Waco Center; check-in is scheduled from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m. (the Waco Center is located at 921 Mineral Road).

The day will begin with a welcome and information session that will provide an overview of student services, financial aid, housing, and more.

Campus tours will be held from 9:50 to 10:20 a.m., ending with a tour of the academic departments.

During this portion of the Open House, students will have an opportunity to visit the departments associated with their intended majors and meet some of their future faculty members.

The day will wrap up with a free lunch at 12:15 p.m.

The Fall Open House coincides with Homecoming Weekend 2017.

To sign up and for more information, visit or call 800.924.2010 by Monday, October 16.

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West Virginia News

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►  West Virginia court reinstates terrorism charge

West Virginia’s top court has reinstated a terrorism charge against a school custodian accused of threatening to get a gun and shoot people in the school if his workload was increased.

The Supreme Court says Brooke County Judge Ronald Wilson wrongly dismissed the indictment against Floyd Ference for threatening to commit a terrorist act.

The police complaint alleged Ference, based on statements from two other custodians, made the threat at Wellsburg Middle School on September 01, 2016.

The judge ruled that it didn’t constitute a terrorist threat by legal definition “aimed at the civilian population as a whole” or directed at a branch or level of government.

The top court says it qualifies since the school is part of the government and the threat was against “unspecified others.”

►  Richwood Drama: Police Escort Baber Out of Council Meeting

Richwood City Council, always set for the first and third Thursdays of each month, hasn’t failed to be interesting in recent weeks.

“Richwood is gonna go down in the annals of West Virginia as being, once again, fascinating,” said Bob Henry Baber, the elected mayor who is on a paid administrative leave that he has been disputing.

The climax of the most recent meeting wasn’t an item on the agenda.

Baber was escorted out by the police.

This all started September 22 when Council confronted Baber about documentation on his state-issued purchasing card and passed a motion placing him on leave. By September 29, Baber contended the city charter doesn’t allow for administrative leave. On October 06, Baber tried to lead a Council meeting and was rebuffed.

By comparison, Councilman Chuck Toussieng said today, the most recent meeting was low-drama.

“Fortunately, it was a lot more boring than the last one. We actually got work done this time,” Toussieng said.

This Thursday’s Council meeting had been moved to an upstairs room because the normal Council chamber is filled with the work of state auditors who are going over Richwood’s books for the past several years.

Baber had been out among the audience, watching the acceptance of prior meeting minutes, the financial statement, unfinished business and new business.

“I’m sitting in the audience with the people, who are 90 percent with me,” he said in a telephone conversation this morning. “Of course, I’m on quote unquote administrative leave, which does not actually exist.”

The head of a company set to demolish flood-damaged Richwood High School was addressing Council, trying to ensure moving forward on the job. That matter has been unresolved for weeks. Baber and Council members continue to explore whether the high school even needs to be demolished, asking if it could be re-purposed.

“I was out in the audience, and there were a number of audience interactions and questions with previous speakers prior to the demolition guy getting up and speaking to get the permit once again to tear down Richwood High School,” Baber said. “He said a bunch of lies about me.”

So Baber got to his feet.

“Bob stood up and started to reply,” Toussieng said. “We kind of let him start, but you could tell it was probably… Once it started to look like it was going to just be an argument, City Council is not the place to adjudicate that kind of stuff.”

Town Recorder Chris Drennen, who is filling the mayor’s duties, spoke up to say it was not the proper time for personal discussions, reported Beckley’s Register-Herald newspaper, which staffed the Council meeting.

“You’re not going to stop me from talking right now,” Baber said.

That’s when the police officer stepped up and asked Baber to leave.

“I stood up just to refute a little bit of what he was saying, got about 5 words out of my mouth and then the police came over and escorted me out,” Baber said today.

Baber said he went out to the parking lot.

“They released me into the wild,” he said today. “I haven’t been in an orange jumpsuit since 1971 and if I’m going to be in an orange jumpsuit again the media’s going to be there to see it. In other words, I’m gonna let everybody know about it.”

After Baber left, an ally who is an accountant tried to present Council with additional receipts accounting for purchases on Baber’s card. Baber says he now has most of his documentation gathered, but Council did not take the receipts.

“It’s a hassle to do, and I knew what would happen last night was what was going to happen,” Baber said. “It’s a coup, plain and simple.”

He said his lawyer, Richie Robb, is filing legal action over the administrative leave. That’s likely to wind up in the courtroom of Judge James Rowe, who dealt with earlier disputes over the proposed consolidation of the county’s school system.

Baber acknowledged this morning that he’d made critical comments of Judge Rowe on his Facebook page and might come to regret them.

“I told Richard Robb that and he said ‘Well, that’s not so good.‘”

Toussieng would like to get back to regular, boring business. He said Drennen is performing the mayoral functions at the part-time pay rate of the recorder’s position. And he said the city’s legal costs are under control right now because it’s only been asking for guidance, rather than full-time legal work.

That could change, of course, if Baber files a lawsuit.

“If he chooses to do that, I believe he will have to pay for that himself,” Toussieng said. “I’m sure he could seek relief if he prevails.”

Meanwhile, the city is dealing with the state audit while trying to negotiate the balancing act of day-to-day expenses while going through the reimbursement process for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s a huge financial balancing act,” Toussieng said. “So what we’re trying to do right now is be ridiculously fiscally conservative.”

Baber acknowledged the city has significant financial challenges directly ahead.

“I do have some sympathy for the council,” he said. “The city is in desperate financial straits.”

►  $120M Settlement with General Motors

Attorney General Morrisey announced a $120 million settlement with General Motors Co. over allegations of concealed safety issues related to vehicle ignition defects.

The settlement, reached by the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia, concludes a multistate investigation into the auto manufacturer’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects. The allegations involved unintended issues with key rotation and/or ignition switches in several GM models over multiple years.

West Virginia’s share of the settlement is approximately $1.27 million.

“West Virginia drivers should not have to worry about faulty equipment putting their lives at risk while on the road,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This settlement is a victory for consumers and represents the diligent work of our office.”

In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to unintended ignition related issues, which could move the vehicle out of the “Run” position and into “Accessory” or “Off.” Drivers could experience a number of electrical issues, including loss of power steering and power brakes and the failure of airbags to deploy in a crash.

The states allege that certain GM employees knew as early as 2004 that the ignition switch posed a safety threat because of airbag non-deployment. However, GM personnel decided it was not a safety concern and delayed recalls, continuing to market the reliability and safety of motor vehicles equipped with the defective ignition switch.

The states alleged that these actions were unfair and deceptive and that the automaker’s actions violated state laws, including West Virginia’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

The settlement prohibits GM from claiming a motor vehicle is safe unless it complies with the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards. GM also must instruct dealers that all applicable recall repairs must be completed before any GM vehicle is sold or returned to a customer.

West Virginia joined the settlement led by Ohio, South Carolina, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Others participating are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

►  WVU facility helps research on impact of inhaling particles

West Virginia University has established a new Inhalation Facility for researchers to identify particles people breathe and how they affect their health.

Timothy Nurkiewicz, a microvascular physiologist in the School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience, is the director of the new lab.

According to university officials, the facility provides researchers with real-time particle-monitoring capabilities and should enable upcoming research into how extremely tiny materials and other inhalable particles from sources like e-cigarettes, auto emissions and the aerosols impact health.

Researchers say nanoparticles encountered commonly, like those inhaled from sunscreen spray, can make it harder for the smallest blood vessels in the body to dilate in response to cell needs.

►  Governor Justice, Sec. Thrasher announce new hardwood manufacturing plant in Greenbrier County

Governor Jim Justice and Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher announced today that the West Virginia Great Barrel Company will build a manufacturing facility in Greenbrier County. The 90,000-square-foot plant will be situated on a 23-acre site in White Sulphur Springs.

“We have had a lot of good news lately,” said Governor Justice, citing the recent expansion of Hino Motors Manufacturing USA and Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, as well as the passage of the road bond. “The people from West Virginia Great Barrel Company are here to do something unique in West Virginia.”

Usually, timber harvested in West Virginia is shipped as raw material to other countries to be processed into manufactured products, said the governor. “With West Virginia Great Barrel Company, our people will harvest the timber and we will make the goods ourselves.”

“This project brings good value-added jobs to the state,” said Secretary Thrasher. “West Virginia Great Barrel Company will create 113 new high quality jobs in their manufacturing plant and another 25 new jobs in a stave mill and log yard. And using West Virginia’s own white oak will support jobs in our state’s timber industry, on which many families and communities rely.”

West Virginia Great Barrel Company has been approved for a $6 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to finance the purchase of equipment and the land. David Warner, WVEDA executive director said the project also has attracted another $6 million from banks. Combined with funds from private investment sources, the total project funding amounts will be more than $30 million.

The Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research completed an economic impact analysis that puts the total annual economic impact of the manufacturing facility at over $50 million dollars. Construction on the West Virginia Great Barrel Company facility is slated to begin in 2018. The plant is scheduled to become operational in the first quarter of 2019.

By federal law, bourbon, rye and whiskey — excluding corn whiskey — must be aged in new, charred oak containers. The company’s goal is to produce 125,000 barrels a year to serve the bourbon, whiskey and rye distilling industry.

2017: Area High School Football Scoreboard: Week 9

The Gilmer Free Press

Area High School Football Scoreboard
2017: Week 9 Games
Hannan (2-6) 6 #12 North Marion (5-3) 28
Gilmer County (2-6) 46 #12 Braxton County (6-2) 30
Calhoun County (0-9) 18 #11 Valley (Wetzel) (5-3) 7
#6 Webster County (7-1) 53 #10 Doddridge County (7-2) 35
Wirt County (4-4) 40 Williamstown (4-4)  
Ritchie County (2-7) 6 Parkersburg Catholic (0-6)    Saturday  
#1 South Harrison (8-0) 43 Magnolia (3-6) 43
#3 St. Marys (6-1) 15 Tyler Consolidated (4-4) 21
Roane County (AA) (0-8) 14 Paden City (2-6) 12
#14 Ravenswood (5-3) 35 Van (4-5) 66
#4 Midland Trail (A) (8-1) 29 Beallsville, OH 25
Nicholas County (6-2) 34 #8 Cameron (7-1) 58
#4 Liberty Harrison (7-1) 14 Valley (Fayette) (3-6) 8
Robert C. Byrd (5-3) 48 Richwood (5-3) 41
#9 Keyser (5-3) 0 Elkins (3-5) 44
#5 Bridgeport (8-1) 30 #11 Lincoln (6-2) 45
Shady Spring (4-4) 31 #8 Hurricane (4-4) 7
Clay County (5-2) 6 #12 Parkersburg (5-3) 35
Philip Barbour (6-2) 24 Buckhannon-Upshur (3-5) 7
Lewis County (1-8) 22 Brooke (2-6) 28
Greenbrier East (1-7) 12    
Parkersburg South (3-5) 29    
BYE WEEK:  Notre Dame

National News

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►  Bush offers unmistakable takedown of Trumpism

For the past nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics.

He declined to criticize his successor, Barack Obama, and he chose not to endorse, but largely ignored Donald Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.

That changed in a big way Thursday.

Speaking at the George W. Bush Institute in New York, Bush didn’t use Trump’s name, but his target became clear as the speech progressed. Here’s a sampling:

  • “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
  • “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”
  • “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”
  • “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”
  • “Bullying and prejudice in our public life . . . provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”
  • “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.”

Any one of these quotes in isolation could be dismissed as high-flying rhetoric aimed at the general coarsening of our political culture – or the rise of forms of nationalism and extremism that clearly exist outside the Oval Office.

But almost each of these quotes have some connection to Trump. “Conspiracy theories and fabrications?” Check and check. “Nationalism and nativism?” Check and check. A “degraded discourse?” Big check. “Bigotry and white supremacy?” Trump was criticized for not calling them out strongly enough in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Bullying?” Huge check. Not “living up to civic values?” Check, definitely.

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., recently drew plenty of attention for alluding to “spurious nationalism” in a speech this week. But Bush’s comments actually hark back to a more thorough takedown of Trump’s worldview that McCain delivered back in February. Here’s what McCain said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany:

  • “[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants and refugees and minority groups – especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability – and even unwillingness – to separate truth from lies.”
  • “They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

Sound familiar?

It’s possible Bush would argue that Trump is more a symptom of all of these unhealthy trends in American democracy than the root of them. But in drafting a prepared speech like that, he had to know how those words would be interpreted.

Trump, during the 2016 campaign, repeatedly attacked Bush for not doing more to stop 9/11 and for the Iraq War. More recently, he has favorably compared his own hurricane response to Hurricane Katrina, on Bush’s watch.

Bush clearly decided Thursday that silence was no longer tenable.

►  Plan to replace ‘Choice’ will modernize Veterans Affairs

Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans service organizations will begin to spar this month over final details of a plan that not only will replace the much-maligned Veterans Choice program, but empower VA to modernize large parts of its health care system.

The plan, which VA titled the Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences Act, was unveiled last week and has an overall structure that major veteran groups applaud, in part because they helped to shape it.

They don’t like everything, however. And the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees are expected to offer their own replacement plans for Choice this fall, perhaps to include more statutory safeguards and more details to improve access to care that advocates worry aren’t spelled out in the VA plan.

The idea behind Choice remains a primary goal for CARE: to ensure access to health care for veterans in their communities when timely, quality care isn’t available at a nearby VA medical facilities. But CARE directs that clinicians, consulting with patients, decide when outside care is needed, rejecting Choice’s reliance on driving distance and wait times to set eligibility and hold down costs.

CARE also seeks authorities for VA to build out high-performing provider networks, relying on private sector partners and other federal agencies, and to ensure closer integration of VA health services with those in nearby communities.

Before 2014, the VA health care system had various ways to access non-VA care. But too often referring patients to the private sector was a business decision, said Louis Celli, director of veterans’ affairs and rehabilitation for The American Legion. Would referral make economic sense considering other options and a facility’s budget?

When a patient wait-time scandal erupted across the VA medical system by spring that year, Congress hastily created Choice to expand access to private sector care. Initially, the idea was to give every VA-enrolled veteran a card entitling them to use community care at VA expense when necessary. The projected cost turned out to be enormous, however, so lawmakers added last-minute cost controls.

No veteran could use Choice unless they lived more than 40 miles from a VA care facility or faced waits for VA appointments of more than 30 days. Meanwhile, responsibility for scheduling appointments, transfer of medical records and payment of fees relied heavily on third-party contactors, causing delays and complaints.

In time, to ease the complaints, VA regained control of Choice appointments, records transfer and fee payments. The role for contractors shifted to building networks of care providers to support a steady rise in community care referrals.

Choice was meant as a temporary solution to the wait-time scandal and is funded through December. But community care grew from 20 percent to more than 30 percent of veterans’ health care the last three years. CARE would consolidate non-VA care options but still spend at least 
$4 billion on private sector health care annually.

At one time, veteran service organizations saw Choice as a threat, a tool that critics of big government could use to dismantle VA care by sending more and more patients to the private sector.

“There are some in Congress who want unfettered Choice,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans. “Give everybody a card and let them go wherever they want. We’re against that and believe it would lead to a dismantling of the VA system as needed resources are drained away and VA (health care) withers on the vine.”

But CARE is seen as striking the right balance, with initiatives to strengthen VA care with more VA providers, improved support systems and streamlined processes, but with a commitment to build high-performing provider networks by partnering with the private sector or at other federal agencies.

Major vet groups do have concerns they want addressed, if not by VA then by Congress. Celli noted, for example, that while clinicians are to decide with patients when to use private sector care, CARE also would allow veterans using a VA medical center that performs poorly to elect community care instead.

“We understand and support the intent of the provision . . . to ensure veterans get the highest quality care available, whether inside or outside VA,” Celli said. “What we cannot support (is) a provision that allows VA to siphon patients away from a medical center that is under performing. We want to see a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate any poorly performing (VA medical center). You can’t just abdicate leadership responsibility by taking patients away, which will cause less traffic into the VAMC less utilization, more evidence the VAMC can be defunded.”

Vet groups also oppose a provision in the plan that would have veterans, including those with service-connected disabilities, pay a modest portion of program costs by rounding down monthly benefit checks to the nearest dollar.

“We have always been against that. We have a resolution saying that we will not support any kind of situation where you are taking one benefit away to pay for another, which this is,” said Augustine for DAV.

Those the COLA provision would expire in 10 years, Augustine said, “for my generation of Vietnam veterans, we are at that part of our life cycle where 10 years mean we probably won’t see it again. And anytime you have a 10-year suspension of something you usually don’t see it come back.”

On this point, the Legion also is adamant. By definition, rounding down costs a veteran no more than $12 a year, but “it’s not about the money,” Celli said. “As Americans, if we choose to use that money, especially for veterans’ health care, what we’re saying is that it is now all right to ask service-disabled veterans to give up a portion of their check each month to pay for their own health care or for somebody else’s services.”

A feature of CARE getting mixed reviews, for lack of detail, would allow access to commercial walk-in clinics for minor illnesses or injuries. VA Secretary David Shulkin earlier said VA would charge a $50 co-pay and the first few visits a year would be free. Those details aren’t in the plan now. Nor is there word on whether service-connected disabled would face a full co-pay or any added cost.

CARE would have VA adopt prompt payment standards common in the health industry: doctor reimbursement within 45 days of receiving of a “clean” paper claim and 30 days for an electronic claim. Augustine said DAV wants to ensure private-sector care providers also are barred from billing veterans if VA doesn’t pay on time, a practice that has marred Choice for many users.

Veterans also should have private-sector appointments in hand when they leave VA clinicians after a determination that community care is necessary. How VA will ensure that is another detail not yet clear, Augustine said.

Some groups, including the American Federation of Government Employees oppose CARE, say the ultimate goal is to dismantle the VA health system and to privatize all medical care for veterans. Major veteran groups support the reforms, but vow to challenge every line that might weaken VA’s ability to deliver care.

“It’s a big picture advocacy and not a myopic view,” Celli said of the Legion’s support. “The Department of Veterans Affairs has a $165 billion budget. That’s not going away anytime soon. If a new secretary were to come and try to change a stable-based VA, we would advocate against, and the American people would either support us or wouldn’t. We have to have faith and trust in the Department until they prove to us they no longer have earned that trust.”

►  3 million Americans carry loaded handguns with them every single day, study finds

Roughly 3 million Americans carry loaded handguns with them every day, primarily for protection, according to a new analysis of a national survey of gun owners published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The information comes from the National Firearms Survey, which the authors - a group of public health experts at the University of Washington, Harvard University and the University of Colorado - administered in 2015. The nationally representative survey was conducted online with 4,000 U.S. adults, including more than 1,500 who identified themselves as handgun owners.

The survey asked handgun owners how often they carried a loaded handgun on their person when away from home.

The peer-reviewed study concluded that roughly 9 million people carried loaded handguns at least once a month, including 3 million who carried them every day. People who carry handguns at least once a month were disproportionately likely to be conservative men between the ages of 18 and 29 residing in Southern states.

Four out of 5 of them said that personal protection was the primary reason they carried a loaded handgun. Nearly 6 percent reported being threatened by another person with a firearm at least once in the past five years. And 1 out of 5 reported carrying a concealed handgun without a permit, even in states where such a permit is required.

The researchers who conducted the study did so in part because good data on concealed-carry practices has been lacking.

“In light of the increasingly permissive concealed carry laws in the United States that we have observed over the past thirty years, it’s important to first, not only document the scope of this particular behavior that we did, but also take the next step and think about how this particular behavior may impact public health and public safety,“ Ali Rowhani-Rahbar of the University of Washington, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Today it’s easier than ever to carry a gun on you at all times. Many states have broadened their concealed-carry policies in recent years. Before 2003, for instance, Vermont was the only state where a person could legally carry a concealed handgun without a permit. Since then, 11 other states have passed laws eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry. Many other states have passed laws making it easier to obtain concealed-carry permits.

The result has been an explosion in the number of concealed-carry permit holders in the United States, from 2.7 million in 1999 to 14.5 million in 2016. That figure doesn’t account for individuals living in states without permitting requirements.

Gun rights advocates, such as the National Rifle Association, contend that permissive concealed-carry policies make society safer - “more guns, less crime,“ as the adage goes. Early research into that question appeared to somewhat back that notion up, with studies in the late 1990s and early 2000s showing that liberal concealed-carry policies were either associated with lower rates of crime or had no effect on crime at all.

But more recent crime research has come to a very different conclusion. This year, for instance, a comprehensive analysis of decades of crime data found that states that made it easier to obtain concealed-carry permits saw a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in violent crime in the decade following the change.

A separate study published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, using more recent data, bolsters that finding. It specifically examined the difference between two types of concealed-carry laws - more permissive “shall-issue” laws, which require authorities to give permits to any individual meeting certain minimum requirements, such as age and residency; and more restrictive “may-issue” laws, which give authorities the discretion to decide whether to issue permits.

Examining crime data from 1991 to 2015, the study, conducted by a team of researchers from Boston University, Children’s Hospital Boston, and Duke University, found that “shall-issue concealed carry permitting laws were significantly associated with 6.5% higher total homicide rates, 8.6% higher firearm-related homicide rates, and 10.6% higher handgun-specific homicide rates compared with may-issue states.“

The study also offered an explanation for why earlier studies, using data primarily from the 1990s and earlier, showed different results. Demand for handgun permits was relatively modest in earlier decades. But during the concealed-carry boom of the 2000s, demand for handguns soared. Gun manufacturers’ output increased dramatically.

“There has been a large increase, especially since 2005, in the share of firearms produced that are of higher caliber and therefore greater lethality,“ according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this year. “In addition, the growing production of 0.380 pistols, which are generally compact, suggests a shift toward more-concealable weapons as well. Thus, firearm production has moved toward products designed to be more powerful and more concealable.“

In other words, the shift toward more lethal, more easily concealed firearms in recent years may be altering the relationship between concealed-carry laws and rates of crime even as states move to make concealed carry easier and more widespread.

Gun owners’ attitudes on these issues are far from monolithic. Only 33 percent of gun owners, and just over half of current NRA members, say they support permitless concealed carry as currently allowed in 12 states. And 44 percent of gun owners agree that the ease with which people can legally obtain firearms is a contributor to the rate of gun violence in America.

Regardless, the 3 million individuals who carry loaded guns with them every day are a testament to recent efforts to make concealed carry easier and more widespread. The public health implications of that shift are only just now beginning to be understood.

►  What would happen if Amazon brought 50,000 workers to your city? Ask Seattle

Amazon has driven an economic boom in Seattle, bestowing more than 40,000 jobs upon a city known for Starbucks coffee and Seahawks fandom. Its growth remade a neglected industrial swath north of downtown into a hub of young workers and fixed the region, along with Microsoft before it, as a premier locale for the Internet economy outside of Silicon Valley.

Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in America, a company town with construction cranes busily erecting new apartments for newly arriving tech workers. Google and Facebook have joined Amazon in locating large offices here.

When Amazon made a surprise announcement last month that it planned to open a second headquarters with even more jobs, it set off an unprecedented race among cities to lure the tech giant their way. Amazon said it ultimately will need 8 million square feet in a second region, making it the biggest economic development target experts can remember.

But as Seattleites will say, keeping up with the Internet juggernaut has not always been easy, providing a word of caution for officials from other cities willing to pursue the company at great expense.

Over the past decade, Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, added new products and business units at a breakneck speed and expected public partners to keep pace.

In Seattle that meant rehabbing an area of more than 350 acres at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing transportation and infrastructure upgrades, expanding public transit, road networks, parks and utilities.

It also put new strains on housing. Seattle is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, forcing lower-income residents to move to far-off suburbs and prompting the city and surrounding King County to declare a state of emergency in 2015 over homelessness.

Since then, the problem has worsened. Rents in King County have more than doubled in the past 20 years, and gone up 65 percent since 2009. Seattle spends more than $60 million annually to battle homelessness, up from $39 million four years ago.

“We started seeing apartment listings that would say ‘No deposit needed and priority for Amazon, Microsoft and Google employees,‘ “ said Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, a Seattle-based advocacy group. She said the area was “in the midst of the greatest affordable housing and homelessness crisis that our state has ever seen.“

How much of Seattle’s evolution is attributable to Amazon is a matter of debate. In the past decade, millennial workers have poured into other big cities - Washington, San Francisco, Boston - exacerbating housing costs and homelessness there.

But few buildups are so linked to the prospects of one company. Amazon has contributed $30 billion to the local economy, and as much as $55 billion more in spinoff benefits. Unemployment in the Seattle area is 3.7 percent, below the national rate of 4.4 percent.

Much of that progress is the result of Amazon’s decision to locate its first headquarters downtown a decade ago. John Schoettler, who oversees real estate for the online giant, thought it simplest and least expensive to plan a suburban headquarters campus east of Lake Washington, in Bellevue, Wash., near where Microsoft was located.

Bezos had a different idea. He wanted to stay in Seattle.

“Jeff said the type of employees we want to hire and retain will want to live in an urban environment. They are going to want to work, live and play in the urban core,“ Schoettler said.

The decision helped usher in a new era, one in which top employers abandon suburban office parks for lively, urban neighborhoods integrated into the cities around them. Only seven Fortune 500 companies had research or engineering hubs in Seattle in 2010; now 31 do.

“Their growth has just been so positive to lots of other companies, big and small and medium and in between,“ said Jon Scholes, president and chief executive of the Downtown Seattle Association, where Schoettler is a board member.

It’s a boom that has shown little sign of slowing. Seattle added 57 additional people a day for a year through the summer of 2016, according to census data. How best to accommodate that growth provokes regular debate in Seattle, and could well shape whatever city Amazon comes to next.

Such details spark little discussion as mayors and governors from coast to coast have embarked upon a sweepstakes fit for a reality show, touting their cities in online videos and dangling taxpayer-funded subsidies of as much as $7 billion even if their jurisdictions don’t have the workforce or transportation network Amazon said it requires.

The company has set October 19 as the deadline to receive proposals.

Tucson officials, with an airport one-tenth as busy as Seattle’s, mailed the company a 21-foot cactus to get its attention. Stonecrest, Ga., with a total population barely larger than Amazon’s Seattle workforce, offered to de-annex 345 acres of its land and rename it the “City of Amazon.“ Kansas City Mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 items on and rated them all five stars.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio even announced plans to light up several landmarks and venues in orange to show support for his city’s bid.

“So will the all mayors go to compete on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Kelly Ripa or Anderson Cooper?“ said Greg LeRoy, president of the policy group Good Jobs First, which regularly warns that public incentives rarely pay off. “That’s the spectrum of the debate right now.“

Seattle won its own economic beauty contest in 1962, when it hosted the World’s Fair. To serve the crowds, the city built acres of parking and low-slung motels in an area known as South Lake Union.

The bet paid few dividends. Three decades later, the area was probably best known for a printing plant, struggling motels and a Hooters restaurant. Only 677 people lived there in 1990.

Then Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, launched a real estate firm called Vulcan and bought 60 acres in the area. Vulcan executive Ada Healey recalls the early skeptics. During a 2002 pitch meeting, she said that a representative from a prospective company turned to her and said: “Why would I want to move to South Lake Union? It is a wasteland.“

Bezos, though, saw promise in the urban locale. He had started Amazon in his garage in nearby Bellevue, then opened an early office in a former military hospital now called Pacific Tower. Before long, he was searching for more space to accommodate his fast-growing company.

Schoettler initially secured about 1.7 million square feet in 10 buildings. It was enough, he thought, to contain the company through 2016, when it was projected to have 9,300 employees.

Instead, Amazon grew five times as fast. It now has more than 40,000 employees in 33 Seattle buildings totaling 8.1 million square feet. It occupies 19 percent of the high-end office space in the city, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, as many square feet as the city’s next 40 biggest employers combined.

Next year Amazon will complete its most prominent addition: three glass biospheres featuring about 40,000 plants, “a unique environment for employees to come and collaborate and innovate,“ Schoettler said.

Seattle officials raced to keep up, approving $480.5 million in improvements for South Lake Union. Amazon and Vulcan, in need of approval to take over city alleys for its development, chipped in some funding.

A $190.5 million road realignment program included $31.4 million from property owners led by Vulcan. A new, 1.3-mile streetcar line cost $56.4 million and benefited from $5.5 million from Amazon, including the donation of a fourth car. Now the city has embarked on a $201.5 million electrical substation, work that includes burying electrical wires.

During weekdays, South Lake Union teems with young workers sporting Amazon name tags, eating bananas that the company offers free to passersby. Many can be seen walking their dogs, as 4,000 employee-owned pups are registered with headquarters access, helping Seattle earn notoriety recently for having more dogs than children.

The campus has produced spillover benefits for the city. Amazon’s buildings are home to 34 restaurants, including a culinary job training program called FareStart. More than 20 percent of employees walk to work, and less than half drive.

The company’s longtime support for LGBT rights - including a $2.5 million donation that Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, made to advance same-sex marriage - dovetail with the city’s progressive politics. In June, the company flew a rainbow flag above its headquarters for LGBT Pride Month. It has more than 40 “glamazon” chapters for LGBT affinity around the world.

“We could have gone to the suburbs and we could have built a campus, and we would have had an entry gate where everybody would come and go so you would be very inward- looking and very exclusive,“ Schoettler said. “As opposed to being in a very urban environment where you have to look outward, so you’re very inclusive and everyone is your neighbor - and everyone is welcome.“

Maybe no city could have built housing fast enough to keep prices from spiraling during Amazon’s growth, but Seattle - despite nearly leading the nation in new apartment construction - hasn’t come close.

On the sidewalks, alongside rentable neon bikes, people subsist in tents and in sleeping bags, in places locals say they did not congregate 10 years ago - a warning sign for cities nationwide trying to capture a version of Seattle’s glory.

“We don’t have enough housing for low-income people especially, but we also just don’t have enough housing,“ said Myers, a longtime Seattle housing advocate. “And Amazon obviously impacts both of those things.“

Officials at Bellwether Housing, the city’s largest nonprofit manger of affordable housing, at 2,000 units, reports a vacancy rate of 1 percent. “It’s very rare that someone moves out because they have nowhere else to go,“ said chief executive Susan Boyd.

An analysis of evictions found they were driven not by social problems but by economics. Since Amazon’s boom began, the city approved a rule requiring landlords to accept the first viable renter who applies - rather than cherry-pick a tech worker. The government also adopted an inclusionary zoning policy requiring developers to set aside some new units at below-market rates or pay into a fund to develop other affordable units.

Myers suggests other jurisdictions pay heed: “If you’re going to get an Amazon that’s going to create a ton of high-paying jobs and a ton of pressure on the housing market, what are the things you can do before rents really skyrocket?“

Ask 10 experts where the company will put its next headquarters and you may get 10 different answers. The company prides itself on zigging when others zag, making it more difficult to read the tea leaves. Still, many in Seattle think the company has a good idea of its options. “I suspect they have a shortlist,“ said Healey, the Vulcan executive.

Landing the second headquarters would be a legacy-defining achievement for nearly any governor or mayor, but lessons from Seattle’s Amazon experience have bidders scrambling to show how they can meet Amazon’s insistence on speed, low costs, transportation and inclusion - particularly if they didn’t focus on them ahead of time.

East Coast cities such as Boston, New York and Washington may need to answer for their own runaway real estate and housing prices. Governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Larry Hogan of Maryland, may have to explain why they canceled major transit projects. Charlotte and Indianapolis are bidding, but Amazon may want to know the effect of state laws there affecting the rights of gay or transgender employees.

Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution said the Amazon competition will hopefully serve as a chance for elected leaders to take the temperature of how prepared their neighborhoods and infrastructure are to drive growth, whether from Amazon or elsewhere.

“These are things every city should be doing anyway,“ she said.

International News

The Free Press WV

►  What Puerto Rico is doing to get the power back after storm

Electrical linemen descend from helicopters, balancing on steel girders 90 feet high on transmission towers in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, far from any road. At the same time, crews fan out across the battered island, erecting light poles and power lines in a block by block slog.

A month after Hurricane Maria rolled across the center of Puerto Rico, the power is still out for the vast majority of people on the island as the work to restore hundreds of miles of transmission lines and thousands of miles of distribution lines grinds on for crews toiling under a blazing tropical sun.

And it won’t get done soon without more workers, more equipment and more money, according to everyone involved in the effort.

“It’s too much for us alone,” Nelson Velez, a regional director for the Puerto Rican power authority, said as he supervised crews working along a busy street in Isla Verde, just east of San Juan, on a recent afternoon. “We have just so many, so many areas affected.”

The office of Governor Ricardo Rossello said Thursday that about 20 percent of the island has service and he has pledged to get that to 95 percent by December 31. For now, though, most of the island’s 3.4 million people suffer without air conditioning or basic necessities. Many have resorted to using washboards, now frequently seen for sale along the side of the road, to clean clothes, and sleeping on their balconies and flocking to any open restaurants for relief from daytime temperatures above 90 degrees.

“I thought we would we have power in the metro area by now,” said Pablo Martinez, an air conditioning technician, shaking his head in frustration.

Hurricane Maria, which caused at least 48 deaths on the island, made landfall on the southeastern coast near Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds of about 154 mph (248 kph). It passed out of the territory about 12 hours later near Barceloneta in the north, still with sustained winds of about 115 mph (185 kph). The onslaught was sufficient to knock down hundreds of transmission towers and thousands of distribution poles and lines.

The storm’s path was ideal for taking down the entire grid. Most of Puerto Rico’s generating capacity is along the southern coast and most consumption is in the north around San Juan, with steel and aluminum transmission towers up to 90 feet (27 meters) tall running through the mountains in the middle. At least 10 towers fell along the most important transmission line that runs to the capital, entangling it with a secondary one that runs parallel and that lost about two dozen towers in a hard-to-reach area in the center of the island.

“It reminds me of a fireball that just burned everything in its path,” said Brig. General Diana Holland, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers unit working to clear debris and restore the grid, with nearly 400 troops on the ground.

The storm also struck at a terrible time. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority filed for bankruptcy in July. It has put off badly needed maintenance and had just finished dealing with outages from Hurricane Irma in early September.

“You stop doing your typical deferred maintenance, and so you become even that much more susceptible to a storm like Maria and Irma coming and blowing down your towers, water coming up in your substations and flooding them,” said Tom Lewis, president of the U.S. division of Louis Berger, which has been supplying generators in Puerto Rico to clients that include the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Everything becomes that much more sensitive to any kind of damage whether it be from wind or water.”

PREPA Director Ricardo Ramos said the authority is working with the Army Corps of Engineers and contractors to bring in more “bucket trucks” and other equipment. It already has about 400 three- to five-member repair crews and is trying to reach 1,000 within three weeks with workers brought in from the U.S. “With this number of brigades we will be able to advance much more rapidly,” Ramos assured reporters during a recent news conference.

PREPA brought in a Montana company, Whitefish Energy Holdings, to help its crews restore the transmission and distribution lines across the island. It has a rolling contract and can bill up to $300 million for its work, said Odalys de Jesus, a spokeswoman for the power authority.

It is a huge job for a young company, formed in 2015. Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski said previous work restoring transmission lines damaged by wildfires in the western U.S. has prepared them for the Puerto Rico contract. “We don’t like easy,” he said during a break at one of the company’s base camps near Barceloneta.

The camp buzzes with activity as helicopters come and go, taking linemen and equipment to the mountain towers, the pilots deftly navigating the lines and mountains to lower men and equipment to the steel-and-aluminum girds high above the trees. Whitefish had about 270 employees in Puerto Rico as of midweek, working both on transmission and distribution. It expects the number to double in the coming weeks if it can find sufficient lodging and transport to the island.

Other contractors working in Puerto Rico include Fluor Corp., which was awarded a $336.2 million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers for debris removal and power restoration, and Weston Solutions, which is providing two generators to stabilize power in the capital for $35 million.

Their efforts are to restore the system that was in place before the storm, not to build a better one, at least not yet. Governor Rossello says the island needs to overhaul its power grid, make it less vulnerable and look at alternative sources. He welcomed a proposal by Elon Musk, CEO of electric-car company Tesla, to expand solar energy and has raised the issue of longer-term improvements with Washington.

House Speaker Paul Ryan seemed to express at least a willingness to consider helping Puerto Rico build back better when he visited the island this month. “If you going to put up a power line let’s put up a power line that can withstand hurricane-force winds,” he said. “It makes no sense to put temporary patches on problems that have long term effects.”

Techmanski said Whitefish was making progress on the line that carries about 230,000 volts to San Juan from the Aguirre power plant in the south, which will vastly increase the amount of power reaching the capital.

“We’re getting it done,” he said. But, asked about the goal of getting 95 percent of power back by the end of the year, he wasn’t sure: “It is very optimistic at this point.”

►  The day anti-Vietnam War protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon

They’d demonstrated before, thousands of anti-war protesters singing and waving banners and burning draft cards on the Mall in Washington.

Now the organizers for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam wanted to go further - much further. On October 21, 1967, they announced, anti-war protesters would march en masse past the Lincoln Memorial, across the Memorial Bridge all the way to the front steps of the Pentagon.

And then they would try to levitate it.

And storm it.

And bring the military-industrial complex to its knees.

“We will dye the Potomac red, burn the cherry trees, panhandle embassies, attack with water pistols, marbles, bubble gum wrappers, bazookas, girls will run naked and #### on the Pentagon walls, sorcerers swamis, witches, voodoo, warlocks, medicine men and speed freaks will hurl their magic at the faded brown walls,“ promised Abbie Hoffman, one of the organizers and a co-founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies). “We shall raise the flag of nothingness over the Pentagon and a mighty cheer of liberation will echo through the land.“

As many as 100,000 people, mostly young, mostly white, flooded the capital for the demonstration, anticipating an injection of counterculture flair into the anti-war movement. An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 demonstrators descended on the Pentagon. And by dawn the next day, nearly 700 had been arrested for various acts of civil disobedience, including trying to get inside the building.

It was an early test of that fall’s new motto, “from protest to resistance,“ and a concrete shift in the “tone and tactics of the anti-war movement,“ according to Maurice Isserman, a history professor at Hamilton College who attended the Pentagon march as a 16-year-old high school student.

Now, on the 50th anniversary of that pivotal weekend, Isserman and more than 100 others plan to demonstrate once again in Washington as part of a two-day retrospective event organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee.

“This is not an attempt to repeat what happened in 1967,“ said Terry Provance, a VPCC staffer who helped organize the weekend’s festivities.

“Though you never know,“ he joked. “If somebody acts on their own, they act on their own.“

That was the mindset 50 years ago, too, as the mobilization committee worked with different factions within the anti-war movement to plan the Pentagon march.

Some groups were only comfortable demonstrating at the Mall. Others supported putting the pressure on military officials, rather than picketing the White House or marching to Capitol Hill. And still others were made quite nervous by the radical rhetoric of Hoffman and his Yippies co-founder Jerry Rubin, who were primarily responsible for the threats to levitate the Pentagon and turn the Potomac River red.

A few months before the demonstration, Hoffman and Rubin held a press conference to detail their plans of an “exorcism to cast out evil spirits” by the “flower power contingent.“ They had incense and a “psychedelic bomb,“ which looked like a bowling ball, according to Jonah Raskin’s book “For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman.“

On October 21, 1967, demonstrators began filling the Mall mid-morning. Speakers included writer Norman Mailer, poet Robert Lowell, pediatrician Benjamin Spock and Clive Jenkins of the British Labor Party, whose remarks were interrupted when a member of the American Nazi Party tried to punch him at the podium.

By late afternoon, the momentum had shifted toward the Pentagon. Throngs of people marched south, bottle-necking as they crossed the bridge and slowing to a shuffle, Isserman recalled.

All around the Pentagon, military police, federal marshals and thousands of Army troops with rifles and riot gear were stationed in place, according to the Department of Justice, ready to defend the nation’s wartime command center against the demonstrators coming to storm it. From their perimeter positions on the ground and perches on the roof, the officers watched as the protesters inched closer and closer, spilling into the Pentagon’s parking lot and toward its entrance.

They readied their weapons, though some officers said years later that the guns weren’t loaded.

“It was a great deal of uncertainty,“ Isserman said. “You kind of didn’t know which way it was going to go.“

Isserman had no intention of getting arrested - he had promised his parents he wouldn’t. But then a section of fencing gave way on the perimeter and suddenly people were pouring through by the thousands, pushing closer and closer to the Pentagon entrance. Isserman was in the middle of it.

Most of the crowd was quickly cordoned off, not allowed to move forward or backward. More than a dozen others broke the line though, making it just inside the Pentagon doors before being carted out by officials.

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara watched the chaos from the safety of his office. He would later say he’d turned against the war himself by 1967.

The Potomac never ran red, no cherry trees burned and the Pentagon did not leave the ground. The hippies and yippies who wanted to levitate the massive 3.7 million-square-foot building couldn’t fully encircle it as planned - though the exorcism was more about theatrics than anything else.

As the sun set, the crowd began to shrink. But there were confrontations into the evening, with brawls and bloodied heads and tear gas lobbed into the crowd. The steps of the Pentagon were streaked red.

By dawn the next day, only a few protesters remained, huddled together, having burned their signs to keep warm.

At that point, nearly 20,000 Americans had been killed in Vietnam, and the war would claim 38,000 more lives before the U.S. finally withdrew in 1975. But the march on the Pentagon became a defining moment of the anti-war movement, immortalized in Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Armies of the Night.“

“It was really hard for the anti-war movement to understand it’s own progress,“ Isserman said. “In a way, we had more influence than we possibly could have known staring up at the Pentagon.“

►  Pollution kills 9 million people each year, new study finds

Dirty air in India and China. Tainted water in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxic mining and smelter operations in South America. Pollution around the globe now contributes to an estimated 9 million deaths annually - or roughly one in six - according to an in-depth new study published Thursday in the Lancet. If accurate, that means pollution kills three times more people each year than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, with most of those deaths in poor and developing countries.

“Going into this, my colleagues and I knew that pollution killed a lot of people. But we certainly did not have any idea of the total magnitude of the problem,“ said Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-chair of the commission behind the report. “I think all of us were really surprised when we saw this.“

The two-year project, which relied on data from researchers in more than 130 countries documenting the causes of disease and premature deaths in recent decades, found that poor air quality was the most significant pollution-related killer. That includes both outdoor pollution tainted by mercury, arsenic and other harmful particulates, and household air dirtied by the burning of wood, dung and other organic materials. The result: An estimated 6.5 million deaths in 2015 from heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory problems.

Water pollution, which includes everything from unsafe sanitation to contaminated drinking water, accounted for an additional 1.8 million annual deaths from gastrointestinal diseases and other infections, researchers found.

Pollution in the workplace also took a heavy toll on some of the world’s poorest workers. From bladder cancer in dye workers to the lung disease pneumoconiosis in coal miners, researchers found that occupational exposure to various carcinogens and toxins was linked to about 800,000 deaths annually.

In 2015, the largest number of deaths attributable to pollution occurred in India and China, with an estimated 2.5 million and 1.8 million deaths respectively. Other severely affected countries include Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kenya.

Beyond the massive human toll, the authors of Thursday’s report also focused on the financial toll caused by pollution-related health problems.

“Until now, people haven’t recognized what an incredible hit pollution makes on the economy of a country,“ Landrigan said. “Pollution control can stimulate the economy because it reduces death and disease.“

They estimated the hit to national budgets at about 1.3 percent of gross domestic product in low-income countries, compared to about 0.5 percent in developed, high-income countries. In addition, nations facing crippling pollution tend to spend much more on health care to treat diseases related to the problem.

“When you’re looking at developing countries, you really have to address this challenge if you want to move people out of poverty and into the middle class,“ said Gina McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who was not involved in the study but had studied its conclusions. “It is holding people back.“

And the warming of the Earth’s climate is likely to fuel more deaths in the absence of international action, she said.

“Climate change is going to exacerbate the very problems that are identified in this article. There will be more contagious and infectious diseases. There will be more lives lost, more injuries, if we don’t identify a path that gets us out of the hole that we’re in,“ McCarthy said. “What people don’t realize is the instability that results from poverty, the instability that results from migration as a result of climate change.“

The startling conclusion that pollution accounts for 16 percent of deaths worldwide is, of course, an estimate. But the findings build on previous studies, including a 2016 report from the World Health Organization, detailing the extent to which pollution represents a public health crisis. “If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young,“ then-WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said last year.

McCarthy said the Lancet study also is built on the most complete epidemiological data available.

“These are the best numbers that we have available to us. And even if they’re off by a factor of 10, you’re still talking about huge, huge impacts. But they’re not off by a factor of 10,“ she said. “It’s very clear if you go to other countries and it’s clear if you go to some of our own communities that they are being held back because of the impact of pollution on their kids and their elderly. And we have to stop thinking that because we can’t see the pollution and it’s not as visible that it’s not there.“

Landrigan said there is “an old wive’s tale” that developing countries inevitably suffer through troublesome pollution and disease on their way to becoming more prosperous.

Rather, he and the study’s other authors insisted that countries must do much to reduce pollution and improve the health of their citizens - and that they will reap economic benefits for doing so. In addition, he said developed nations can play a meaningful role in helping poorer countries slash pollution, and major nonprofit foundations that have largely steered clear of the problem must be convinced that it is a global priority.

“It doesn’t have to [get worse]. It’s not an inevitable outcome,“ Landrigan said of the annual death toll. “Pollution control is a winnable battle.“

College Foundation Of West Virginia Sets New Goal For Completion Of Federal Student Aid Application

The Free Press WV

The College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) has announced the statewide goal to have at least 63 percent of high school seniors file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by April 15, 2018.

Filing the FAFSA is the first step in applying for financial aid for college. Students who file the FAFSA are considered for the Federal Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,920 annually to students to cover the cost of tuition and other education expenses. Additionally, students must submit a FAFSA to apply for many in-state scholarship and grant opportunities, such as the PROMISE Scholarship, which awards up to $4,750 annually, and the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, which awards up to $2,700 annually.

The following schools met or exceeded last year’s 60 percent FAFSA completion goal:

  • Bishop Donahue Memorial High School
  • Bluefield High School
  • Bridgeport High School
  • Buffalo High School
  • Cameron High School
  • Capital High School
  • Central Catholic High School
  • Charleston Catholic High School
  • Cross Lanes Christian School
  • East Fairmont High School
  • East Hardy High School
  • Elkins High School
  • Fairmont Senior High School
  • Faith Christian Academy
  • Frankfort High School
  • George Washington High School
  • Greenbrier East High School
  • Greenbrier West High School
  • Harman Elementary/High School
  • Hedgesville High School
  • Herbert Hoover High School
  • Hundred High School
  • Hurricane High School
  • Lewis County High School
  • Lincoln County High School
  • Lincoln High School
  • Logan Senior High School
  • Magnolia High School
  • Martinsburg High School
  • Midland Trail High
  • Mingo Central High School
  • Montcalm High School
  • Moorefield High School
  • Morgantown High School
  • Nitro High School
  • North Marion High School
  • Paden City High School
  • Parkersburg Catholic High School
  • Paw Paw High School
  • Pendleton County Middle/High School
  • Petersburg High School
  • Ravenswood High School
  • Ripley High School
  • Scott High School
  • Shady Spring High
  • Sissonville High School
  • South Charleston High School
  • South Harrison High School
  • Spring Mills High School
  • Teays Valley Christian School
  • Tucker County High School
  • Tug Valley High School
  • Tygarts Valley Middle/High School
  • Union Educational Complex
  • University High School
  • Valley High School (Smithers)
  • Valley High School (Wetzel)
  • Van Junior/Senior High School
  • Wahama High School
  • Washington High School
  • Webster County High School
  • Weir High School
  • Westside High School
  • Wheeling Park High School
  • Williamstown High School
  • Winfield High School
  • Wirt County High School
  • Wyoming County East High School


Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the HEPC, noted that student aid dollars oftentimes go unclaimed simply because students do not file the FAFSA.

“The financial aid is out there, but students have to apply to receive it,” said Hill. “All students who plan to pursue some form of education or training beyond high school, regardless of their income or grades, should file the FAFSA to be considered for federal and state student aid.”

Dr. Sarah Tucker, Chancellor for the CTCS, stressed that filing the FAFSA can help many students go to college debt-free.

“If students receive the maximum award amounts for the Federal Pell Grant and the West Virginia Higher Education Grant, they will already have nearly $9,000 to pay for college,” said Tucker. “This is more than double the average yearly cost of tuition at West Virginia’s two-year institutions. Filing the FAFSA is a crucial step in transitioning to postsecondary education.”

March 01 is the deadline for students to submit a FAFSA to be considered for the PROMISE Scholarship, and April 15 is the deadline for students to submit the FAFSA to be considered for the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program. Students who plan to pursue education or training beyond high school during the 2018-19 academic year can now complete the 2018-19 FAFSA online at using their 2016 tax returns. Students who wish to apply for the PROMISE Scholarship can do so now at

Staff from the Financial Aid Division at HEPC are working with college and university partners to help increase financial aid awareness throughout communities in the state. As a result, hundreds of free financial aid and FAFSA workshops are scheduled throughout the academic year. A full list of workshops is available at

CFWV is West Virginia’s college- and career-planning resource. The initiative is led by HEPC in partnership with CTCS, the West Virginia Department of Education and the Office of Secretary of Education and the Arts.

Fall Foliage Report: Colors Approaching Peak

The Free Press WV

Fall color is approaching peak in parts of southern West Virginia, just in time for Bridge Day, which is scheduled for Saturday.

The state Division of Forestry along with the state Tourism Office released their fall foliage report Wednesday:

In the higher elevations, wind, rain and frost have brought many of the leaves of all species except oaks to the ground. Limited viewing opportunities remain in the eastern mountains as the oaks change to yellow. Most of the remaining color can now be found in southern and central West Virginia, along with parts of the Eastern and Northern Panhandles.

West Virginia counties and regions showing good color:

Berkeley (70%) — A good range of color can be found at Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area off Hampshire Grade Road.

Doddridge (75%) — U.S. 50 from Parkersburg to Clarksburg is a recommended drive.

Mercer (75%) — U.S. Route 19 from Princeton to Gardner is scenic.

Mingo (30%) — King Coal Highway is showing quite a bit of color.

Monongalia County (65%) — Coopers Rock State Forest on the Preston-Monongalia border is still colorful.

Morgan (60%) — Color is approaching peak just in time for the Berkeley Springs Fall Studio Tour—a driving tour of local art studios Oct. 21-22. The three-state panorama off W.Va. Route 9 and Detour Road is another good view.

Logan (40%) — Blair Mountain is showing quite a bit of color.

Nicholas (70%)— W.Va. Route 39 from Summersville to Gauley Bridge is a recommended drive.

Ohio (55%) —The maples along W.Va. Route 88 through Oglebay Resort are showing good color.

Ritchie (60%)—U.S. 50 from Parkersburg to Clarksburg is approaching peak color.

Taylor (65%) —Tygart Lake State Park is beautiful now. The oaks are still green but other trees are showing oranges, yellows and reds.

Featured #AlmostHeaven Road Trip: New River Gorge

Color is at 75% along U.S. Route 60 from Gauley Bridge to Ansted, where Hawks Nest State Park offers scenic overlooks of the New River Gorge. Some leaves have dropped from the higher elevations but the lower elevations are showing good colors in pockets. Spectators at this weekend’s Bridge Day festivities should see some fall colors in the gorge. This is a good time of year to visit Babcock State Park as well.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to continue sharing their favorite fall photos, moments and memories using #AlmostHeaven.

New River Gorge Bridge 40th Anniversary Celebration

On October 22, 2017 the New River Gorge Bridge will celebrate 40 years! Join us for a special celebration on October 21, 2017 at the 38th annual Bridge Day festival.

Traffic comes to a halt on the New River Gorge Bridge as thousands of people pour onto the bridge — and a few of them jump off it — during the annual celebration of Bridge Day this Saturday.

The event, which starts in Fayetteville on Friday and moves to the bridge on Saturday, includes B.A.S.E. Jumping, rappelling, a Bridge Jam with live music, a Taste of Bridge Day and many other events.

Friday, October 20

  • 5 pm-9 pm: Taste of Bridge Day at Smokey’s Steakhouse @ Adventures on the Gorge
  • 7 pm-midnight: The Bridge Jam at the Cascade Festival Grounds on Maple Ave.
  • 8 pm-11 pm: Groundhog Gravy Band at The Rendezvous Lodge @ Adventures on the Gorge

Saturday, October 21

  • 5:30 am: Vendors to various staging lots
  • 7 am: Route 19 closes
  • 7:30 am: Active Southern WV Bridge Day 5k race registration begins
  • 8:30 am: Shuttles begin at designated parking lots (Kroger, WalMart, Fayetteville High School, Lighthouse Worship Center and Midland Trail High School)
  • 9 am-3 pm: Bridge Day begins
  • 9 am-1:30 pm: Into the Gorge bus rides start (this is pre-sold)
  • 9:15 am: 5k race begins
  • 10 am-3 pm: Bridge Day Car Show at the Gorge Gateway Center on Laurel Creek Rd.
  • 2:30 pm-midnight: The Bridge Jam at Cascade Festival Grounds on Maple Ave.
  • 3 pm-5:30 pm: Bridge Day Chili Cook Off at Downtown Fayetteville
  • 5pm: Route 19 re-opens
  • 8:30 pm-11:30 pm: The Wild Rumpus at The Rendezvous Lodge @ Adventures on the Gorge

For more information, please contact the Bridge Day office at 304.465.5617.

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