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Snake Fungal Disease detected in West Virginia’s snakes

A juvenile Eastern milk snake in Kanawha County with crusty scales and abrasions on its head has tested positive for the causative agent of Snake Fungal Disease.

Snake Fungal Disease can cause injury and death in some snake species, but does not appear to be dangerous to humans. This is the first contemporary occurrence of Snake Fungal Disease in West Virginia.

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“This is an alarming discovery,” said Kevin Oxenrider, a wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Snake Fungal Disease is not well understood, but dramatic declines in snake populations, particularly rattlesnake populations further North in the United States, have been linked to this disease. The DNR will remain vigilant and continue to monitor snake populations throughout the state to better assess the threat this disease poses.”

Snakes are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem and help control populations of rodents, birds, invertebrates and even other snakes.

The DNR asks that anyone who captures snakes, either with a snake hook, snake tongs or by hand, to disinfect their equipment appropriately after use by using bleach or other materials found to be effective at killing the fungus. Effective decontamination will help prevent the spread of Snake Fungal Disease and protect West Virginia’s snakes.

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Anyone who observes a snake displaying the clinical signs of Snake Fungal Disease should contact Kevin Oxenrider in the DNR Romney office by calling 304.822.3551 or sending an email to .

“Affected snakes typically display swelling, crusty scabs or open wounds on the skin,” Oxenrider said. “Clinical signs are typically seen on the head of the snake, but can occur anywhere on the body.”

For more information about West Virginia’s snakes and Snake Fungal Disease, visit www.wvdnr.gov or northeastparc.org.

WVDEP Taking Public Comment on List of Impaired Waterways

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The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), under the authority of the federal Clean Water Act Section 303(d) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality Planning and Management Regulations, has developed a draft list of West Virginia’s impaired streams and lakes.

The WVDEP is required to update its list of impaired waters every two years. The list, commonly known as the 303(d) List, serves as an inventory of waters for which Total Maximum Daily Loads must be developed.

The draft West Virginia 2016 Section 303(d) List may be viewed on DEP’s website here: www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/303d.

An impaired water is a water body which fails to meet state water quality standards. By violating applicable water quality standards, impaired waters fail to support one or more of their designated uses, such as public drinking water supply, aquatic life propagation and maintenance, or contact recreation.

In order to allow public participation in the listing process, public comments are being accepted from July 21, 2017 to August 21, 2017.

Comments may be submitted by e-mail to or or mailed to:

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Water and Waste Management
2016 303(d) List – Attn: Stephen A. Young
601 57th Street, S.E.
Charleston, WV 25304

Under Federal Sanctions, West Virginia Colleges Need $245M

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West Virginia’s public colleges need $245 million in the next month after U.S. education officials put sanctions on them for Title IV programs for federal student grants and loans, according to state higher education officials.

Records obtained by The Charleston Gazette-Mail additionally show state officials knew for months that if they were late submitting an audit of incoming federal money for a third-straight year, West Virginia’s colleges and universities would face sanctions.

State Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill said officials may loan from the treasury and return it later. He said larger schools have enough cash to avoid significant problems. West Virginia University and Marshall University officials said they’re still figuring out what to do, since they had just learned of the sanctions.

Higher Education Policy Commission spokeswoman Jessica Kennedy said the U.S. Department of Education usually gives schools the money so they can distribute it to students. Under sanctions, schools pay up front and request federal reimbursement.

The sanctions will last five years. They affect pots of money that include the Pell grant and federally subsidized student loans. U.S. education officials have usually reimbursed institutions in about two weeks when colleges have been under similar sanctions, Hill said.

Gov. Jim Justice has promised to find out who is responsible for the error. Then, “heads will roll,” he said.

West Virginia’s five-member congressional delegation also sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday, asking her to reconsider the sanctions.

“The people who will be harmed most by these sanctions are the low income students who rely on federal financial assistance to attend colleges,” the letter states.

Hill said he wasn’t worried that this year’s audit would be late again, but then the Consolidated Public Retirement Board didn’t finish putting together retirement liability information until just before Christmas.

Documents show Hill learned in early March the state would be late in sending in its audit information, which was due March 31.

ETC.

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  • Casting the Inevitable Donald Trump White House Movie:  You know it’s coming.    ESQUIRE


  • The Murky Issue of Presidential Justice:  No, pardon me. Last week Donald Trump reportedly asked whom he had the power to pardon, including his aides, family and … himself. It’s never been done, but the Constitution only prohibits the chief executive from thwarting an impeachment, so some experts say it’s possible. Other reports have said Trump wants to stymie one Russiagate inquiry by investigating the alleged conflicts of interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s now probing the president’s business ties to Russia, in addition to other links his campaign appears to have had to Kremlin election meddling.    Bloomberg


  • Abortion Pills’ Success Spawns New Battleground:    They can’t live with this. After state-level medical restrictions helped shutter clinics providing surgical abortions, the procedures have declined to their lowest numbers in decades. But women and their doctors have been turning to medication abortions — permissible up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy — as an alternative that’s on track to overtake its invasive counterpart. To confront this new challenge, abortion foes have employed psychology, promoting a regret narrative, while conservative states are enacting laws requiring doctors to offer a medical “antidote” to the termination drugs — even though its safety remains unproven.    NYT Magazine


  • Rethinking the Human Genome:    We’re universally unique. While mutations were thought both negative and corollary to certain diseases, an influx of genetic data is suggesting the opposite: Mutations are the norm. On average, humans carry 400 of them, but our limited understanding means that rather than answering questions like, “Is my cancer risk high?” many variations remain unexplained. That means people carrying these genetic anomalies don’t know whether they’re pathogenic or benign. Now patients who learn they have variants are finding that testing companies patent their genetic data, so if they want a second opinion, they’ll have to sue.    The Guardian


  • Cheese Science Is Taking ‘Got Milk?‘ to the Next Level:  They’re milk’s special forces. Dairy Management Inc. is waging war against Americans’ disdain for lactose and fat. Embedding with companies like Taco Bell, the government-sponsored group is making sure innovative cheese products find their way onto menus and into consumers’ bellies. The average American eats 35 pounds of the stuff annually, but that’s not enough to revive an ailing dairy industry with a 1.3-billion-pound cheese glut. DMI’s working on that — but some small farmers worry they’ll be left behind while Big Dairy skims all the cream.    Bloomberg


  • Prisoner Podcasters Shed Light on Life Behind Bars:    They haven’t stopped askin’ why. California’s fabled San Quentin State Prison is home to inmates Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams — who, with local artist Nigel Poor, have turned to a podcast to tell the stories taking place around them. “Ear Hustle” documents prisoners’ first-person narratives, detailing cellmate selection and bonding with cockroaches and snails, in a bid to make people see inmates as human beings. Having hit number one on the U.S. iTunes podcast charts, Woods and Williams are planning to broadcast to dozens of prisons around the world.  Al Jazeera

West Virginia News

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►  Justice Statement On Presidential Visit to West Virginia

Governor Jim Justice issued the following statement on Trump’s visit to the Boy Scout Jamboree:

“Having the President of the United States in West Virginia is a tremendous honor. A visit from Trump will be the cherry on top of this year’s successful Boy Scout Jamboree. A presidential visit will help showcase West Virginia to the world and demonstrates that Trump hasn’t forgotten about our state. I look forward to welcoming the President and celebrating the mission of the Boy Scouts.”


►  Trump to visit Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia

The Boy Scouts of America says Donald Trump will visit the 2017 National Scout Jamboree next week in West Virginia.

On Monday, Trump will become the eighth U.S. president to attend a Jamboree. More than 40,000 Scouts, their leaders and volunteers are at the 10-day event.

Details of the visit were not immediately available. The Boy Scouts says the event is not open to the public.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the Jamboree on Friday.

Presidents dating back to George H.W. Bush attended the Jamboree when it was previously held at a military base at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. President Barack Obama declined an invitation from the Scouts to address the 2010 Jamboree in Virginia and the 2013 Jamboree when it was held for the first time in West Virginia.


►  Mine company owned by West Virginia governor’s family cited

A West Virginia mine owned by the family of Governor Jim Justice has been cited for safety violations after a worker’s death at a coal preparation plant in February.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration says in a news release that two safety violations were issued to Southern Coal Corp. subsidiary Chestnut Land Holdings LLC in the accident that killed 43-year-old Jason Kenneth Matthews of Bluefield, Virginia.

MSHA says Matthews wasn’t using a safety harness when he fell almost 19 feet from the top of a plate press onto a conveyor belt.
MSHA says the company failed to ensure that harnesses are used when there is a danger of falling and failed to provide a safe means of access to work areas.

A message left with Southern Coal seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Friday.


►  Lewis Grand Jury Hands Down 47 Indictments

Forty-seven indictments were handed down last week by the Lewis County Grand Jury. Among those were Whitney Chipps, 27, of Clarksburg, who is accused of a DUI resulting in a death, and Ralph Lunsford, 38, of Alum Bridge, who is accused of domestic battery—third offense. Both Chipps and Lunsford will be arraigned July 27.

Twenty-four of the defendants were scheduled to be arraigned July 14, and two were arraigned Tuesday. Trial dates have been scheduled for between September 18 and September 29. Not guilty pleas were entered for all those who were arraigned.

Steven Hawkins, 35, of Jane Lew, has been indicted on one count of fleeing in a vehicle with reckless indifference, one count of daytime burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit daytime burglary, felonies, one count of petit larceny and one count of conspiracy to commit petit larceny, misdemeanors.

Danelle Hawkins, 34, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of daytime burglary, one count of conspiracy to commit daytime burglary, felonies, one count of petit larceny, and one county of conspiracy to commit petit larceny, misdemeanors.

Travis Wiseman, 23, of Clarksburg, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Heroin, felonies.

Alex Paul Jordan, 28, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of destruction of property, a felony, and one count of battery on a government representative, a misdemeanor.

Matthew Wayne Jones, 23, of Bridgeport, was indicted on one count of failure to meet an obligation to provide support to a minor, a felony.

Jason Collin Ancell, 27, of Clarksburg, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Tramadol, felonies.

Dennis Wayne Ratliff, 45, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Hydrocodone, felonies.

Lozaro Abraham Diaz-Manso, 27, of Hialeah, FL, was indicted on two counts of fraudulent use of an access device a felony, and two counts of forgery of credit card, a felony.

Chapin Lynn Richards, 20, of North Salem, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, a felony.

Roger Lee Rowan, 47, of Weston, was indicted on one count of driving while license revoked for DUI third offense, a felony, and one count of driving while license suspended second offense, a misdemeanor.

David Eugene Bishop Jr., 26, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, a felony.

Christopher Mark Moriarty, 24, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Oxycodone, a felony.

Tyler James Weaver, 28, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Ellen D. Stover Keesecker, 55, of Weston, was indicted on one count of financial exploitation of an elderly person, and 49 counts of fraudulent use of an access device, felonies.

Ronald Lee Winneberger, 26, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, and one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance methamphetamine, felonies.

David Lee Marple, 44, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Donald Lee Bowers, 40, of Jane Lew, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Tramadol, a felony.

Bobby Ray Johnson, 27, of Buckhannon, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, a felony.

Stewart Allen Goodman, 43, of Jane Lew, was indicted on two counts of grand larceny felonies, one count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, five counts of entry of building other than dwelling felonies, five counts of conspiracy to commit entry of building other than dwelling, all felonies, and one count of petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Charles Earl Baxter, 53, of Clarksburg, was indicted on one count of driving while license revoked for DUI third offense, a felony.

James Fredrick Jeffries, 24, of Stonewood, WV, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver methamphetamine, a felony.

Anthony Lee Mar II, 22, of Monticello, KY, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Hydrocodone and one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, felonies.

Brian Keith Bevans, 28, of Weston, was indicted on one count of fleeing in a vehicle with reckless indifference a felony, one count of reckless driving a misdemeanor, one count of driving while license suspended first offense, and one count of assault on a government representative, misdemeanors.

Harry Lewis Butcher, 43, of Weston, was indicted on one count of manuracture of a controlled substance marijuana and one count of conspiracy to manuracture a controlled substance marijuana, felonies.

Brittany Jane Myers, 27, of Weston, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance methamphetamine, one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance methamphetamine, one count of manufacture of a controlled substance marijuana and one count of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance marijuana, felonies.

Roger Lee Clem II, 29, of Weston, was indicted on tow counts of wanton endangerment involoving a firearm, felonies.

Tyler Chad Evans, 21, of Weston, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Xanax a felony.

Tiffany Lynn Crum, 27, of Weston, was indicted on one count of fraudulent use of an access device, a felony.

Mark Chauncey Hamrick, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of entering without breaking, one count of conspiracy to commit entering without breaking and one count grand larceny, felonies.

Tyler Jameson Weaver, 28, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Michael Chad Jordan, 41, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of making terroristic threats, a felony.

Christopher Robin Peters, 35, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, a felony.

Timothy J. Wilt, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, a felony.

Ann Marie Thomas, 44, of Mount Clare, was indicted on 17 counts of fraudulent use of an access device, one count of nighttime burglary, all felonies, two counts of petit larceny, and one count of making false statements to officer, all misdemeanors.

Jesse Lee Barnett,74, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of obtaining money by false pretenses, a felony.

Adam Kyle McCourt, 33, of Webster Springs, was indicted on one count of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine, and one count of delivery of a controlled substance Buprenorphine within 1,000 feet of a school, felonies.

Zachery C. McKisic, 30, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance Heroin, felonies.

Tristan L. Runner, 21, of French Creek, was indicted on one count of grand larceny and one count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, both felonies.

Jeremy Denver Wagoner, 23, of Buckhannon, was indicted on one count of grand larceny and once count of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, felonies.

Samuel W. Grogg, 53, of Weston, was indicted on two counts of delivery of a controlled substance—marijuana, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, felonies.

Robert Lew Stout, 35 of Weston, was indicted on one count of domestic assault—third offense, a felony.

Roy Allen Larew, 62, of Thornton, WV, was indicted on one count of grand larceny, a felony.

Byron Lynn Spiker, 33, of 26 counts of forgery, 21 counts of uttering, and one count of taking the identity of another, all felonies.

Brent Ashley Satterfield, 28, of Weston, was indicted on one count of child neglect creating risk of injury, a felony.

Timothy Edward Berg, 54, of Jane Lew, was indicted on delivery of a controlled substance —methamphetamine,one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Hydrocodone, one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Oxycodone, one count possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver marijuana, one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver methamphetamine, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver Clonazepam, all felonies.

Robert Joseph Hines, 26, of Weston, was indicted on one count of entering without breaking, one count conspiracy to commit entering without breaking, and one count of grand larceny, all felonies.


►  Man re-enacts 17th-century journey through Kanawha Valley

When he left Fort Henry near present-day Petersburg, Virginia, in May of 1673, Gabriel Arthur, believed to be the first European to lay eyes on the Kanawha Valley, had no inkling that he would soon become the most-traveled frontiersman of his time.

But during the year that followed, Arthur would travel with native people, either as a guest or a hostage, west to Tennessee, southwest to the Gulf Coast and northwest to the Ohio River Valley, making a layover to, among other things, swim and bathe in the Kanawha River with residents of a large Moneton Indian village before returning to Fort Henry on June 18, 1674.

The young Englishman arrived in colonial Virginia as an indentured servant to Abraham Wood, the region’s most successful fur trader and the commandant of Fort Henry, built in 1645 near the Falls of the Appomattox River. In addition to protecting nearby colonists, the fort was a trading post serving the needs of both settlers in the lowlands east of the fort and American Indians living in the foothills and mountains to the west.

Wood had assigned Arthur to accompany and assist James Needham, a business associate, in a bid to interest native people living west of the Occaneechi people — who then occupied portions of the Piedmont region of present-day Virginia and North Carolina — in dealing directly with Wood instead of using the Occaneechi as middlemen, as other tribes in the region had opted to do, during a blossoming beaver pelt trade. It was apparently Arthur’s first extended trip into the frontier beyond the fort.

“For me, Gabriel Arthur was a fascinating person to read about,” said Doug Wood, who recently added the 17th Century, English-born colonist to his repertoire of historic characters with ties to Appalachia that he portrays in living history presentations.

“He was young, illiterate and unfamiliar with the frontier, yet in one year, he managed to travel through 1,200 to 1,500 miles of it, learn the ways of the American Indians he met and get three nations of western Indians to take their beaver skins to his boss,” Wood said.

Last Week, Doug Wood portrayed Arthur in a living history presentation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s “History Wednesday” series, in his hometown of St. Albans, a locale Arthur may well have visited in 1674.

Since Arthur could not read or write, the only account of his far-ranging journey was a letter Abraham Wood wrote to financial backer John Richards in London shortly after Arthur returned to the fort and provided his employer a verbal recounting of the expedition’s major events. Arthur’s return was a surprise, since Abraham Wood had received word several months earlier that both Needham and Arthur had been killed by Indians.

“My poore man, Gabriell Arthur, all this time ecaptivated,” Abraham Wood wrote to Richards. “All this time in a strange land where never English man before had set foot, in all likelihood either slaine or att least never likely to return to see ye face of an English man, yet by great providence and God allmighty, still survives.”

According to Arthur’s account as told to Abraham Wood and forwarded to Richards, after a false start in April, Needham and Arthur began their journey on May 17, accompanied by an Appomattoc Indian guide and seven native porters. Four pack horses carried three months of provisions for a journey that would end up lasting a year.

After traveling more than 30 days, with stops at villages previously visited by Needham in what is now southern Virginia and northern North Carolina, the party met up with a group of Tomahitans, who lived in the mountains to the west. The Tomahitans agreed to guide Arthur and Needham to their settlement, but not until a delegation of 11 members of their tribe traveled back to Fort Henry with a letter of introduction from Needham to meet with Wood, view his trade goods and learn his trade policies.

When the delegation returned, satisfied with what they learned, the group set a westward course, crossed the Blue Ridge and traveled another 24 days through the mountains and valleys of North Carolina before reaching Tomahitan Town, most likely located along a river in eastern Tennessee, according to Doug Wood’s research of the journey.

The Tomahitan villagers “were very kindly entertained” by their European visitors and their sole surviving horse, Abraham Wood wrote in his letter to Richards. “A stake was sett up in ye middle of ye towne to fasten ye horse to and an aboundance of corne and all manner of pulse with fish, flesh and beares oyle for ye horse to feed upon” was provided by the villagers. A scaffold was erected nearby for Needham, Arthur and their Appomattoc guide to sleep on, allowing “theire people to stand and gaze at them and not offend them by their throng.”

Sometime during his nine days of rest at the village, Needham gave Arthur the assignment of staying with the Tomahitans until he returned the following spring, to learn the tribe’s customs and the basics of their language. The young Englishman’s reaction to the assignment is not known.

Unknown to Arthur at the time, Needham was killed by an Occaneechi guide on the way back to Fort Henry. The Tomahitans, allies of the Occaneechi, became convinced that retaliation would follow from Wood and the militia in his command.

In a panic, villagers tied Arthur to a stake, piled a mound of dried cane around him, and were preparing to set it on fire when the king of the Tomahitans arrived on the scene, shot one of the would-be executioners with a Spanish-made musket, and freed Arthur. Arthur spent the next several months at his benefactor’s side, doing what he later told Wood the tribe mainly did for a living: “to forage, robb and spoyle other nations.”

The Tomahitan king told Arthur he would personally take him back to Fort Henry the following spring, but only if he obeyed his commands, one of the first of which was to join a 50-man raiding party headed for a Spanish settlement in western Florida, where they ambushed, killed and stole a musket, pistol and sword from a Spanish soldier on the outskirts of the town. Two gold coins and a cold chain found on the soldier were given to Arthur, which he ended up losing, Wood felt compelled to note in his letter to Richards.

The next raiding party Arthur accompanied involved the looting of an Indian village near Port Royal, South Carolina, where the Tomahitans “made a very great slaughter” of the settlement’s occupants.

In 1674, Arthur joined 60 Tomahitans in a 10-day northern journey to the Kanawha River to pay a call on one of the tribe’s allies, the Monetons, who lived in “a great towne which a great number of Indians belong to” that was “situated upon a very great river.”

“The Moneton town Arthur visited could have been the one here in St. Albans, but it is more likely to have been the town site at Buffalo, since it’s on the side of the river that matches Arthur’s description,” Doug Wood said. Both towns meet the general location of the settlement cited by Arthur — about one day’s walk upstream from the point where a large, northwest-flowing river flows into an even larger river flowing to the west.

The Tomahitan king had one more combat mission for Arthur before escorting him back to Fort Henry: An attack on one of several tribes hostile to the Tomahitans who lived along a stretch of land south of the Ohio River in present-day Kentucky.

During that attack, one arrow pierced Arthur’s thigh and a second arrow may have struck his hand. Unable to flee the battlefield due to his leg wound, Arthur was captured. Arthur’s exceptionally long hair made it obvious to his captors that he was not a Tomahitan, who favored a close-cropped look. After scrubbing their captive’s skin with water and ashes, they also discovered that Arthur was white, a fact they “made very much of” before returning his weapons and preparing him a meal of roast beaver.

By using signs, Arthur informed his former captors that a great deal of value could be added to the beaver they killed by removing their pelts prior to cooking, explaining that good pelts could buy them guns, knives, hatchets and cookware from his boss, if he was able to get back to Fort Henry and make trade arrangements. Arthur was taken to a trail leading back to Tomahitan Town and sent on his way.

After accompanying the Tomahitans on a final hunting expedition to the south, where the party killed and barbecued bears, beaver and sturgeon, Arthur was sent on his way back to Fort Henry, where he arrived on June 18, 1674.

“No one really knows what became of him after that,” said Doug Wood.

Two years prior to Arthur’s journey, Abraham Wood financed an expedition by Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam to find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean, then believed to lie only a few hundred miles west of the Alleghenies. The two explorers did come across the New River and followed it to a point believed to be just across the border from Virginia in present-day West Virginia, making them the first Europeans to set foot in the state.


►  Day trips around West Virginia keep life interesting

From mountains and rivers to downtown shopping and history, West Virginia has a lot to offer those who live here and those who come to visit. And throughout the state, there are myriad options for day trips.

Some areas are filled with history, while others are made for adventure. There are places people can enjoy without spending a penny and areas where people can pay for a full day of activities. There is always something for someone to do in the Mountain State, even if he or she has to look high or low for it.

The Bridge Walk in Fayetteville offers visitors a unique perspective of the New River Gorge Bridge. The Bridge Walk gives people the chance to access the catwalk underneath the structure.

Benjy Simpson, managing member of the Bridge Walk, said it’s such a unique experience because there are very few opportunities like it around the world.

“We have been in business six years and have seen over 34,000 people,” he said. “People have visited from all 50 states and from 62 different countries.”

The walk is open for all ages and abilities, Simpson said. When the catwalk was designed, it was done in such a fashion as to be able to accommodate all kinds of things.

“The bridge was designed so people can go in a wheelchair if they need to. There are no steps, no stairs and some little hills to get to and from the bridge,” he said. “We’ve had blind and deaf people as well. It’s amazing to see how well they can hear and compensate for the loss of sight.”

One of the great things about the Bridge Walk is that people can proceed at their own pace, Simpson said. Groups are welcome to come out and spend their time taking in the views and enjoying the high-level walk.

“The bridge is six-tenths of a mile and we do self-guided tours. We have the longest continuous safety system in the world, so once you’re clipped in, you don’t unclip until you get to the other side,” he said.

People are able to get a 360-degree, panoramic view, Simpson said. They are happy to take photos of guests while they are on the catwalk to keep as memories.

“We like to share the different facts about the bridge, the history, tell them about all the things they can see,” he said. “We run every day of the year that we can. High wind prevents the tour, and high snow and ice when we can’t get to the bridge.”

At the middle of the catwalk, visitors are 851 feet above the New River, Simpson said. The view of rafters and kayakers is one people won’t be able to find anywhere else. People are able to sit on the catwalk and watch them from above.

“Some people come even with a fear of heights. So far we’ve had 122 people back out and not finish, and that’s OK,” he said. “Heights are a real fear for some people, but we work with them and get them across.”

Simpson said tours can range from one to two people up to groups of 20. It’s important to keep the groups smaller so they can hear all the information about the walk and have the opportunity to proceed at their own pace.

“We have the ability to discuss with people what they want to hear while they are out there or we could just take them out and not say anything,” he said. “We have had the same price since day one and we’ve tried our best to not raise it.”

At the Bridge Walk, officials do full moon tours, Easter Sunday sunrise walks, as well as celebrations for Bridge Day, West Virginia’s birthday and the upcoming solar eclipse.

The Centre Market in Wheeling offers the option of shopping and eating while also getting to learn some history. Kurt Zende, manager, said the center of the market is made up of two historic market houses that are owned by the city.

“Inside the houses are 10 different businesses that include art galleries, eateries, an ice cream store, pie place and a bakery,” he said. “Outside there are roughly 25 other businesses that range from antique shops to wine shops to gift shops.”

Zende said it’s easy for people to spend their entire day at the Centre Market because there is so much to see.

“This is just a quaint little area. It can be nostalgic for a lot of people because you have that experience of shopping in an open area downtown,” he said. “Along with that, the sights are just aesthetically pleasing as well.”

During the summer months, the market picks up and there are more things to do. Every first and third Friday from June to September, Zende said Centre Market host street parties.

“We have local and regional bands come in, the eateries cater out onto the street and bands play from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., ” he said. “The street is closed off and the bands play. People are welcome to enjoy spending time with friends, food and beverages.”

Businesses throughout Centre Market hold different events throughout the year such as wine tastings and different types of gatherings, Zende said.

The market is a great place to spend a day with the family or a group of friends while enjoying food and history.

For something a little more out of the ordinary, ACE Adventure Resort in Minden, Fayette County, offers the Wonderland Water Park that features inflatables on a 5-acre lake.

Although the park has been on the lake for some time and open to the public, it wasn’t always marketed, said Heidi Prior, the resort’s former marketing director.

“The water park really took off two summers ago, and we were blown away by the response,” she said.

Money received was put back into the park in the way of 40 new inflatable toys and two more water slides, Prior said.

The Blob is one of the most popular activities on the lake next to the water slide and zip-line that enters the water, Prior said. The Blob is a giant inflatable that launches one person into the air when another person jumps on the opposite end.

“Sometimes we hold Blob competitions to see who can go the farthest and people really seem to enjoy that,” she said.

The park also offers a pizza and grill area, as well as an outdoor bar that overlooks the lake, Prior said. The two wood-fired brick ovens are actually run on wood that is harvested and cut on the 1,500 acre base.

“Although people can make reservations, people are more than welcome to just walk up to the park,” she said. “We have full- and half-day passes, as well as special rates if people participate in one of the guided activities we offer.”

Wonderland Water Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Half-day passes can be purchased for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 3 to 8 p.m. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free with each adult full-price pass.

“One good thing about the water park is most people who come are from West Virginia. It’s exciting that this water park is really hitting it off with them,” Prior said.

There are also two different season passes available as well. The weekday season pass is Sunday through Friday, excluding Saturdays and holidays. The Unlimited Pass includes all days, as well as Saturdays and holidays.

Other activities are also included in park passes, such as a climbing wall, volleyball courts, a giant chess board and a bungee trampoline where kids can get strapped in and jump.

For more information about ACE Adventure Resort and the water park, visit http://www.aceraft.com.

Quilt trails are another unique feature that can be found, especially in the southern part of the state. Mason County was the first in the state to have a quilt trail, according to Denny Bellamy, Mason County Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

“People are able to come here, pick up a map, and head on their way. There is so much more than just seeing the quilts on the trail,” he said. “There are all sorts of different things to see from the West Virginia State Farm Museum to the Amish country in our county.”

The quilts that are placed on barns are usually 8-by-8 or 6-by-6-foot squares with some sort of quilt pattern, Bellamy said. When those who have the quilts have them up, it’s an invitation for people to come on their property.

“This invitation allows people to visit with the farmers and quilters, and they love it,” he said. “This is a really neat way to see rural Mason County. We do have Amish in the interior of our county, and they are the real thing.”

The Quilt Trail also connects to other counties, Bellamy said. The trail offers visitors a unique look into different areas of the county that they might not otherwise see.

“This is one way to control where tourists go and we don’t want them to stop exploring,” he said. “We want them to keep on going, there’s always another quilt square going into the next county.”

The Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is hidden off in Monroe County between Gap Mills and Waiteville. It’s located off the Allegheny Trail and is about a mile hike, said Rodney Davis, volunteer birder.

“We have visitors year round. In the summer we have anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 people a month just to come up for the view,” he said. “In the fall, we start around September 1 for our fall raptor count.”

Davis said there are a group of volunteers who count the migrating hawks, eagles and falcons. People are able to see anywhere from 4,500 to 6,000 migrant birds every year.

“Our vantage point is such that you get an excellent view of the birds. They are above us, around us and even below,” he said. “Sometimes we have eagles at eye level, and it’s very impressive.”

Davis said visitors are able to see about 40 miles on a clear day. The observatory is located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

Davis mentioned that people are able to even just hike up around the observatory and have a picnic if they like. Those interested in visiting don’t even have to know about birds.

“We encourage people to come out no matter what their experience with birds is,” he said. “They can help call our attention to birds because they can be anywhere. Everyone who goes regardless of their bird expertise can participate. We are always looking for people to help us count and watch for the birds.”


►  West Virginia firm gets paid after kickback scheme charges

State records show a company charged in a West Virginia highways kickback scheme continues to receive state payments on a traffic signal-repair contract.

Bayliss and Ramey has received nearly $800,000 since December.

The company was charged last year with conspiring to commit wire fraud. It agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and adopt measures to prevent fraud. In return, prosecutors plan to drop charges after 18 months.

Firm owner Mark R. Whitt awaits sentencing this month on a wire fraud charge.

Acting state Purchasing Director Mike Sheets says the agency usually waits until after sentencing to ban a company from doing business in the state.

Federal prosecutors allege Whitt and three others illegally diverted about $1.5 million worth of Division of Highways projects to South Carolina engineering consulting firm Dennis Corp.


►  West Virginia sends crew of 20 to fight Rockies wildfires

The West Virginia Division of Forestry has sent a 20-person crew to help fight wildfires in the Rocky Mountains.

The group of 14 state foresters and six volunteer firefighters departed from the Charleston Division of Forestry office on Saturday morning.

They headed to a rendezvous point in Pennsylvania to join crews from several other states before they all fly to Colorado.


►  Harpers Ferry father runs marathons for two

Jake Hall runs every chance he can. He runs four or five times a week around town, notching about 45 miles a week during the past two years.

Lean and muscle-toned from the disciplined mileage, he also laces up for competitive races now, mostly marathons and half marathons, enjoying the physical and mental release, as well as the fresh air that fills his lungs along the way.

But Hall’s main endorphin rush doesn’t come from a steady pace of footsteps. His motivation is more than physical. Because everywhere Hall runs, he’s never alone. When he runs, he always runs for two. His 6-year-old son Thad leads the way, rolling along out front in a jogging stroller, an indispensable part of the athletic duo and with every step its inspiration.

Hall, a 32-year-old Harpers Ferry resident, is a wheelchair push-team runner with little Thad, known as Thaddeus, too. Wheelchair push-teams are a small but growing athletic phenomenon of running partners, where one enabled runner provides the kinetic power for a disabled comrade. But both runners compete as one.

For push-team Hall, the story involves a strong father propelled by the love of his little boy.

“Personally, running is a way for me to connect with Thad,” Hall said. “There is nothing else I can do to connect with him this way. Sure, I can hold him. He likes getting into a swimming pool — things like that. But this is me and him. I love it. He loves it. It’s father-son time.”

Thad was born with a mysterious, extremely rare genetic condition that has only recently been identified. Hall said his son is one of six or seven children in the world known to have the condition, which is so recently discovered that is doesn’t yet have a name.

“When Thad was born, everything for him initially looked healthy and normal. Everything looked great,” Hall recalled. “Then within a few weeks, the doctors were concerned. He wasn’t responding as they would expect. Then he never hit the developmental milestones of talking, moving for a child his age.”

Then a steady physical decline appeared. By four months of age, Thad began having seizures on a daily basis that have progressively weakened him. By his first birthday, the boy lost his ability to eat, prompting doctors to give him a permanent feeding tube. Over the last six years, Thad gradually lost his ability to move his arms and legs as the seizures continued. His immune system also weakened, bringing on numerous life-threatening bouts of pneumonia and intensive-care vigils.

“Thaddeus typically has rough mornings,” Hall said. “Typically waking up is a challenge. A lot of seizures.”

The routine of Thad’s daily care is systematic and time consuming — and stressful, Hall admits. His boy undergoes daily respiratory therapy. He wears braces on his ankles and hands for support. A therapist comes to the Halls’ home four times a week to provide physical and speech therapy. Waking up, just like changing and bathing, follows a particular process. Thad’s lack of muscle control makes it difficult for him to cough, so a simple cold would be dangerous.

“Some days are just plain hard,” Hall openly acknowledges what becomes apparent after a few minutes of conversation. But those hard days are when the father and son’s team running offers the most relief, and sometimes even crystal-clear moments of joy.

“Our running story together didn’t start until last year,” the father offered. “It’s been a long journey trying to figure out how to give Thad experiences that he can’t have for himself.”

The boy enjoys dips in the pool and therapeutic horseback riding. Hall suspended bungee cords from the ceiling of their living room that attached to Thad’s wrists, which lets his hands and body float in a way that offers him different ways to sit, stand and move — a sense of physical freedom.

But the boy lights up when it’s a day he’s feeling well and simply running with his dad.

“Caring for Thad is stressful — emotionally draining,” Hall said. “To be able to get out there and run and bring him with me so my wife gets a break and Thaddeus gets a break, too, from just being inside all day.”

Thad’s mind, as far as his parents and doctors can tell, functions as well as any boy his age, Hall said. Though Thad can’t communicate with words, he is always present and observing, the father said. His son’s eyes constantly scan the world around him from whatever vantage point his wheelchair provides.

“It means the world to walk in the door and his eyes move toward you when he hears your voice,” Hall said. “He’ll try to pick up his head and look at you. That’s fantastic.”

What Thad conveys through nuanced expressions confirms an array of emotions and moods that anyone feels, Hall said.

“Thaddeus loves being around kids,” he said. “If kids are around and they’re having a great time, he just looks happy being in the same room.”

“Thaddeus loves lights, so if we go somewhere he will just stare at lights,” he continued. “We have Christmas lights in our house year-round.”

Through the challenges and hassles of Thad’s medical condition, Hall remains a steadfastly grateful and proud father.

“Obviously, he’s my boy,” he said, straightening up slightly at the opportunity to describe his son.

Thad is a “pretty chill kid,” Hall said. The boy really enjoys being around people. He loves his family. He just rolls with whatever they’re doing.

“It doesn’t matter if he’s in a hospital hooked up to IVs and monitors and he’s sick,” Hall said. “He’s so peaceful.”

In this way, his little boy with the roving gaze, Hall said, is as much a teacher as a joy to behold.

“I can look at my life and go like, ‘Wow, it’s hard because of X, Y and Z.’ Thaddeus doesn’t have the ability to do a lot of things that I enjoy,” Hall said reflectively. “He may never. And yet he can find contentment. I guess that’s the word I’m going for, contentment.”

“It’s so refreshing in our culture, which is so fast-paced — a lot of image management, a lot of going on to the next and the next and the next,” Hall continued. “Thad is just happy to be right here.”

THE ROAD TO JEFFERSON COUNTY

Sporting a summer-styled military crew cut topped with a slight mohawk bouffant, Hall is soft-spoken but as wide-eyed and sharply observant as his little boy.

Hall grew up on the central-coast of California, and his wife grew up mostly in Akron, Ohio. The couple met at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, in neighboring Loudoun County, where they also attended the same church. They got married a year after they both graduated college. They first settled down in Leesburg before moving to Jefferson County and Harpers Ferry to acquire a single-level home that would accommodate the full use of Thad’s wheelchair.

“We just knew we wouldn’t be able to pick him up and walk down stairs easily,” Hall said.

His wife Rebekah is a full-time homemaker — “working evenings, weekends and days” — for Hall, Thad and the couple’s healthy and active 8-year-old daughter Magnolia. Hall works as a computer systems administrator for a nonprofit, Care Net, a Christian-based pregnancy counseling organization in Landsdowne, Virginia. He can telecommute from home several days a week, which allows him to help tend to Thad more often than if he had to commute to an office every day.

“I can take care of him, or help my wife take care of him,” Hall said. “We tag team.”

Hall says his family found more than a home, but a generous welcome in Jefferson County. Everyone has been friendly, helpful and encouraging, from neighbors to a coterie of local runners.

“The school system has been fantastic to work with Thad in the home,” he said.

Connecting with the nonprofit organization Horses with Hearts in Martinsburg, which offers a physical and emotional therapeutic horse riding program for disabled people, veterans and seniors, has been a marvelous opportunity for Thad and Hall’s family.

People in the county just don’t say they want to help, they really want to and they do, Hall said.

“We didn’t expect it to be this good,” he said of his family’s landing in Jefferson County. “This is the most it’s felt like home just because people seem to slow down and care about each other.”

Extending a “big thank you,” Hall also said he appreciates the support he has received, including a fundraiser from the Harpers Ferry community and significant discounts on running shoes he received from Harpers Ferry Outfitters in Harpers Ferry and Two Rivers Treads in Ranson.

Hall said he appreciates working for an organization that is so understanding and helpful.

“They’ve been a big part of our story as well with their support,” he said of his workplace. “Coworkers always love to hear about our running. My supervisor has been very flexible and really understanding.”

Hall and his family worship at a Christian church in Frederick, Maryland, a community he also credits with providing his family with an outpouring of support. His faith has given him patience, he said, to each day face the time-consuming challenges of Thad’s medical condition and the profound questions that come with them.

“You know my hope is not that doctors will find a cure. I would love that, absolutely,” Hall said. “But my hope is that one day Thaddeus is going to run around. It could be here and we get to see it, maybe not. But there’s a much bigger story than the day to day.”

A tattoo on Hall’s forearm shows an image of a wheelchair and a running figure. It includes the words “Morn Shall Tearless Be” from a favorite hymn.

“One day it’s going to make sense,” he explained the inscription.

“The Bible talks about every tear being wiped away,” he reflected. “And to me that means even if I don’t have all the answers, one day I will be able to say, ‘That makes sense.’ There’s a perspective here that I don’t have. I’m like a little kid asking his dad for something, and his dad is like, ‘You know what, you just don’t understand, but I do and it’s going to work out.’”

THE PATH TO ROAD RACES

As a senior in high school, Hall’s first experience running was during two-mile warm ups while playing on his school’s soccer team. He enjoyed “slow and steady” longer-distance running as much or more than soccer, discovering a particular kind of fitness and clarity of mind through running. Occasionally, Hall ran three to five miles casually while in college and after college.

Push teams are starting to appear in footraces across the country, but still many running events don’t recognize or understand these teams enough to include them, Hall said. Fortunately, he said, the Freedom’s Run marathon and half marathon that take place in Jefferson County each spring and autumn allow him and Thad to participate. In fact, the race organizers, led by Jefferson County family physician Mark Cucuzzella, encouraged them on, giving the father-son team their first opportunity to run in a long-competition last spring.

However, Hall’s first introduction to push-team running came through the story he discovered before he had his son and daughter. The story is about a father-son push team from the Boston area.

“Team Hoyt,” involved Dick Hoyt, a father who started running races in 1977 with his son, Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy in a custom-made running chair. Rick, like Thad, could not speak but, unlike Thad, he could communicate through an interactive speech-enabled computer.

Over the past 40 years, the Hoyts competed in more than 1,000 races together, including marathon footraces as well as grueling triathlons that combine long-distance running, bicycling and swimming challenges into a single race. The Hoyts, who more famously biked and ran the 3,735 miles across the country in 1992, still occasionally compete in marathons today.

“I just thought that is fantastic,” Hall said recalling the first time he learned about the Hoyts through a YouTube video while he was in college. “I loved it.”

But just as inspiring for Hall, beyond how the Hoyts competed in so many races for so many years, was the first five-mile footrace the Hoyts entered together.

“Came in second to last,” Hall recalled. “He was not in great shape, but afterwards his son said, ‘When we run together I don’t feel disabled.’ And that was just a huge light bulb that went off for (Dick Hoyt) that he needed to do this-big time.”

Years later, Hall’s memory of the Hoyts — and what they accomplished with no athletic experience or training — would flash in his head after Thad was born.

In remembering the Hoyts, Hall, who at the time had only walked and jogged informally with Thad at first, never expected or even wanted to become part of an athletic dynamo performing inspirational feats. But in the back of his mind he thought he could draw on their example to start an adventure with Thad. With steady effort one simple step at a time, he could see what happens, he said. The possibility was what mattered, and that idea lingered.

But other people and events would help steer and encourage Hall and Thad toward push-team marathon running.

One day unexpectedly Hall’s mother mentioned the idea of running a marathon with Thad. She saw how Hall enjoyed walking and jogging with Thad. But the idea of marathon running was “crazy” to Hall — too extreme.

“Three to five miles and I’m done,” he said of his running ability and perspective at the time. “So there’s no way, and I’ve never pushed Thad.”

Later on, for his fifth birthday, Thad received some cash, however. And Hall found himself researching another jogging stroller purchase for his growing son. The stroller he eventually purchased has three wheels, safety straps and room for Thad to grow.

Then last year one spring morning Hall attended the opening reception for the Guide Shack Cafe, an eclectic coffee bistro, eatery and informal hang out place in Harpers Ferry, just down the street from Hall’s home. There he first met and talked with Chris Price, the cafe’s owner, and the two men became fast friends.

An intense Air Force military veteran, Price learned about Thad, and Hall learned about Price’s nephew with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair like Thad does.

“He looked me dead in the eye and said, ’Jake, we need to push these boys through a marathon,’” Hall said of the conversation with Price. “That’s just the way Chris is, right. He’s going to take it all the way.”

Soon after, Hall started researching marathon races and making phone calls to them. He found little awareness or flexibility for push-team runners from the various races he contacted. Some marathon races have rules against running strollers fearing possible liability if another runner were to trip or stumble over a stroller. The terms buried in insurance policies for marathons can also essentially block bar push teams from participating in many events.

By last May, Hall still could not find a race to run in as a push team with Thad. He mentioned this to Price, who knew that the Freedom’s Run half marathon race was the next day, and that he knew Cucuzzella, another Air Force veteran.

At the time, the longest stretch Hall had run alone was about eight miles, nothing close to the 13 miles of a half marathon. He had never run more than two miles while pushing Thad. But by then the short runs Thad experienced with his father were transforming for the child.

“He loved it,” Hall said of his son. “He loved being outside.”

Explaining his situation to the Freedom’s Run coordinators, Hall received immediate approval to participate in the half marathon. Moreover, the race coordinators gave him a free registration. Don’t worry about anything, we support what you’re doing, go for it, Hall was told.

“Here’s your tags. Here’s your T-shirts,” he remembers hearing. “Just show up and run.”

Price went along during that first half marathon and helped Hall with stairs and other obstacles a push team would encounter along the race route. He said he “crumpled” in pain with cramps during the race a few times. “But it was fantastic,” he said.

“We ran two and a half hours — not a single seizure” shook Thad, Hall recalled. “He just loved it. He looked happy. People were cheering. It was a beautiful day. We had a fantastic time.”

The father-son team also completed all 13 miles of the race, their first half marathon. And since then they have completed a full marathon and a half marathon, with hopes of finishing the Freedom’s Run marathon this fall.

LET OTHERS RUN

Asked to share any of his perspective for people who also have a child with a disability, Hall said try running perhaps or try something else that feels bold and even out of reach.

“Give it a try,” he said.

Those families would probably be amazed at the number of new friends who suddenly show up in their lives, Hall said, who are eager to help — perhaps offering a gift of their time, their knowledge or their donation — any way they can.

“I’m not some all-star runner who just had a disabled kid and ran with him,” he pointed out. “Running this far is new, with the last year and a half.”

His push team running started with a goal, suggested by others, and it came about only a step at a time.

Hall would like to form a local running club for push-team runners. He already runs casually with a few friends on Saturday mornings. They meet up at the Guide Shack Cafe.

For people without a child with a disability, Hall just offered a thank you. So many people who have encountered him running with Thad have offered simple, spare words of encouragement that mean so much, he said.

Usually in races but elsewhere, too, people have mentioned how Thad looks so happy when they’re running together. Others have shared a similar love for a family member or friend with a disability, too. Some have simply called Hall an awesome dad.

“Those little comments — they mean the world to us,” Hall said, speaking for himself and his son. Of course, he doesn’t think he’s the best dad in the world, he added. But a little bit of encouragement has often been the most memorable part of more than a few challenging days.

“I’ve never felt when I’m at these races or running around town that I’m in the way,” he said. “People have never treated us like we’re somehow an obstacle to their progress or their race time. They’re always just encouraging. That’s fantastic.”

More and more, when he and Thad complete any run, whether it involves training or a formal race, Hall said he appreciates each experience as a gift to be thankful for and delight in. Sometimes the run goes smoothly. Or sometimes Thad might be having seizures and he’s uncomfortable. But every day is still a gift.

With four major races under his belt so far, Hall’s long-term goal is simply to keep running local races with Thad as long as possible.

“I would like to be able to do the Freedom’s Run marathon every year until I’m an old dude,” he said. “I think that would just be so cool.”

Once again Hall thinks about Dick Hoyt, who continued pushing his son in Boston marathons until he was 72.

“So if we go that long,” he said with a laugh, “I’ve got 40 years.”

National News

The Free Press WV


►  Senator says detained student freed in China

A U.S. lawmaker says Chinese authorities have released an American college student who was arrested in their country a week ago after reportedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a fare dispute.

The office of Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines says police in central China freed 25-year-old Guthrie McLean early Monday, local time.

The University of Montana senior was detained July 16 in the city of Zhengzhou on charges of intentional injury.

His mother, Jennifer McLean, alleges police demanded the equivalent of $7,400 in compensation from the family and threatened to imprison her son for up to three years if they refused to pay.

Local police have declined to comment on the case.

Jennifer McLean told The Associated Press her son’s actions were justified because the taxi driver was hurting her.


►  O.J. Simpson had a ‘conflict-free life’? Not really

When O.J. Simpson told a Nevada parole board last week that he’s led a “conflict-free life,” he seemed to overlook a few episodes that had him cycling in and out of courtrooms and jail cells for nearly 20 years before the Las Vegas hotel-room heist that sent him to prison in 2008.

There was a wife-beating charge in 1989 that he pleaded no contest to, a road-rage charge he was acquitted of in 2001 and a contempt-of-court citation in 2008 that put him in jail for five days.

There was also, of course, the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Acquitted by a criminal jury in 1995, the football hero and Hollywood star was found liable for the killings in civil court two years later and ordered to pay the victims’ families $33.5 million.

“The idea that he believes that he’s led a conflict-free life shows a certain delusion that he’s been very noted for throughout his career,” said veteran Hollywood crisis publicist Michael Levine.

In the wife-beating case, Simpson was accused of attacking Nicole Brown Simpson on New Year’s Day 1989, angrily telling police it was a “family matter.” Then, fearing he would be arrested, he fled in his Rolls-Royce, according to police.

Officers reported they arrived at Simpson’s Los Angeles home before dawn to find Nicole Brown Simpson screaming, “He’s going to kill me!” They said she had a cut lip, a swollen and blackened left eye and cheek, and a handprint still visible on her neck.

She called 911 again, eight months before she was killed, to report Simpson had broken down a door to get into her home and was threatening to beat her. He could be heard screaming angrily in the background.

When the 70-year-old Simpson told his parole board Thursday, “I’ve basically had a conflict-free life, you know,” the remark lit up social media with derision and disbelief.

“A conflict-free life,” Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, asked incredulously Saturday. “This is who he is. He’s a sociopath, a narcissistic liar, a murderer, a thug, a kidnapper, a robber. The list goes on.”

Of course all those conflicts occurred before Simpson had nine years in prison to realize he was not above the law. Will he remember that after he gets out in October?

“I would guess that there is some message that got through to him, a deterrence message about having to take the criminal justice system seriously,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.

“But you know, staying on the right path is difficult for anybody who gets out of prison,” added Levenson, a former federal prosecutor. “And for O.J., who there is going to be a tremendous amount of public spotlight on, it may be particularly challenging.”

The moment he slips up, she said, there will be an army of people waiting to push the record button on their cellphones. And he could end up getting sent back to prison.

One of the most valuable things he learned behind bars, Simpson said at his parole hearing, came in an “Alternative to Violence” class that taught him “how to talk to people instead of fighting.”

That seemingly would have been useful when he got into that road-rage dispute in Florida with a driver who accused him of trying to snatch the glasses off his face. Simpson denied trying to take the glasses, testifying his fingerprints must have gotten on them when he accidentally bumped him as both were shouting at each other.

In 2002 he nearly got locked up when he pleaded not guilty to speeding his boat through one of Florida’s manatee-protected zones, then didn’t show up in court. After a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, he paid the fine.

He didn’t fare as well in 2008 after he sent an angry, expletive-filled message to one of his co-defendants in the hotel-room robbery after the judge specifically ordered him not to contact any co-defendants. She jailed him for five days until he promised not to do it again.

Simpson has argued all along — and repeated on Thursday — that he was only trying to retrieve some of his mementos when he and five others barged into that Las Vegas hotel room in 2007 and robbed two sports memorabilia dealers.

Levine, the crisis publicist, said that his best advice to Simpson would be to stay out of sight after he gets out and, when someone tries to goad him into an argument, turn the other cheek.

“If he doesn’t,” Levine said, “he’s hours away from being back in license-plate-making school.”


►  Some urge sprinkler mandates across U.S. after Honolulu fire

When Moon Yun Pellerin’s parents bought a 27th-floor apartment in a high-rise overlooking Waikiki about 15 years ago, they didn’t realize the wave-shaped building had no fire sprinklers.

“We didn’t even consider it,” Pellerin said.

But a week after a massive fire broke out one floor below her apartment, killing three neighbors, Pellerin and her family “definitely want sprinklers” installed — even if it means spending thousands of dollars.

The Marco Polo Apartments were built in 1971, before sprinklers became mandatory for new construction in Honolulu.

Despite local lawmakers’ efforts to require older buildings to install sprinkler systems, officials estimate about 300 high-rises on Oahu still lack the fire prevention measure.

Across the United States, cities have a mixed bag of laws on whether older high-rise apartment buildings must install fire sprinklers that weren’t required when the towers were first built. Many — including New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco — still have high-rises without the safety measure.

Cost is often cited. But after Honolulu’s deadly July 14 fire, some question whether financial concerns outweigh the potential for tragedy.

Here’s a look at how the sprinkler debate is playing out in several U.S. cities:

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HONOLULU

In the inferno’s aftermath, Honolulu’s fire chief said sprinklers would have contained the blaze to the unit where it started, possibly saving the lives of those who died in nearby apartments. Mayor Kirk Caldwell introduced a bill a few days later that would require all high-rises to have sprinklers, even older ones.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take for apartment owners as well as associations to see the value of human life,” said Hawaii state Senator Glenn Wakai, who plans to introduce legislation offering homeowners incentives to install sprinkler systems.

The fire was not the first one at the 36-story Marco Polo building — and not the first time the question of installing sprinklers has come up. After a 2013 fire, the building’s association asked an engineering firm for cost estimates to replace the fire alarm system and install sprinklers.

The company concluded it would be about $8,000 per unit to install sprinklers, or about $4.5 million for the whole building. Sprinklers were never installed.

“It’s a tough issue for these associations because they are grappling with a lot of different costs,” said Evan Fujimoto, president of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii. “When you’re dealing with an association, you might have 500 different people. How do you get people to agree on it?”

Constraints on city and state budgets also play a role.

Wakai first introduced legislation in 2005 after another deadly fire, proposing incentives that would cover 35 percent of the cost. But the budget was tight, and the bill ultimately failed after the incentive was reduced to just 5 percent.

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SAN FRANCISCO

A pair of deadly 2015 fires in San Francisco prompted city leaders to look at requiring automatic sprinklers in older residential buildings. But the idea faltered after landlords and officials raised concerns about the cost and logistics.

“The sprinklers work — we know that — but the problem is, you’ve got these old buildings, and it’s expensive, and there’s going to be resistance on the part of the landlords,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.

In 1993, San Francisco required that high-rise commercial buildings and tourist hotels be retrofitted with sprinklers, but the mandate excluded residential and historical buildings.

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CHICAGO

In Chicago, a fire that killed six people at a downtown county government building in 2003 prompted officials to enact a host of safety measures.

Just weeks after the fire, in which victims died in stairwells after doors locked behind them, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring that the doors of the high-rises remain unlocked.

Two years later, the city passed what is called the Life Safety Evaluation Ordinance, which requires residential buildings 80 feet (24 meters) or higher that were built before 1975 to be equipped with various safety features such as voice communication systems and fire-rated doors and frames in stairways. But it does not require them to retroactively install sprinklers.

The city requires most of its older commercial buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers, but not residential buildings.

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NEW YORK:

New York City requires sprinkler systems in new construction and in older commercial towers. But it mandates residential high-rises to retroactively install sprinklers only if they undergo significant renovations or change the building’s use, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

Alan Schulkin, 68, lives in a 39-story building in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood that was built in the 1970s and does not have sprinklers.

“If (sprinklers) save lives and there’s one fire, of course it’s worth it,” Schulkin said.

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DALLAS

The city of Dallas said the fire department has 89 high-rise residential structures on record, and 23 have some but not complete sprinkler coverage.

Three residential high-rise buildings in the city have no sprinklers at all, though they met the requirements of building and fire codes in effect when they were constructed, according to officials.

If a structure’s occupancy use stays the same, and the building has had no significant renovations, the requirements of the code under which it was built continue to stand, the city said.


►  Groups make DIY bike lanes to show U.S. cities what could be

A makeshift bike lane divider made of painted two-by-fours and PVC pipes lasted three days on a busy Dallas street last month before the city removed it, which was two days longer than its creators expected.

The $100 structure was the work of the Dallas Transformation Department, one of several like-minded groups of anonymous Twitter users who have taken a do-it-yourself approach to making road improvements in cities stretching from New York and Boston to San Francisco.

Activists say a flower planted in a pothole or a line of cones or toilet plungers to keep cars from drifting into bike lanes can have the magical psychological effect of getting drivers to slow down and watch for cyclists and pedestrians. Although the measures are meant to be temporary, they can show the public what could be and spur cities to make permanent improvements.

“These transformation groups are creating change, and we support that,” said Kathleen Ferrier, a spokeswoman for the Vision Zero Network, a group dedicated to eliminating traffic fatalities around the world. “What’s happening with guerrilla tactics is that they are creating more urgency. It’s helping people imagine and experience what change could be like.”

Last month’s project was the first for the Dallas Transformation Department, but it plans more.

“We knew it wouldn’t be permanent. It would take a few times, but we believe people should have the power to give their neighborhoods value,” said Layne, a group spokesman who declined to give his last name because the project was technically considered vandalism by the city.

City officials say it’s not that simple. Business owners complain when street parking is replaced with bike lanes, and firefighters worry that separated bike lanes could impede their emergency responses.

And there’s usually a shortage of funds, said Jared White, who manages Dallas’ bicycle transportation program within the Mobility and Street Services Department. Striping a buffered bike lane can cost $50,000 a mile or more if a crosswalk needs to be altered, and moving curbs to install bike lanes can cost millions, he said.

“It’s difficult to get something on the ground right now,” White said. “I understand the frustration, but there is a lot of planning and engineering that goes into bike lanes. On the street where they put the bike lane is right where we’re about to put one in. It’s going to happen within the next couple of years.”

Dallas spent an estimated $300 and three hours removing the unauthorized bike lane divider because it didn’t meet federal and state regulations. It also presented a safety hazard, said Auro Majumdar, an assistant director of transportation operations for the city.

“The bicycle lane endangered any bicyclist using the illegal lane by exposing them to head-on collisions with a motor vehicle legally travelling in the marked travel lane,” he said.

Despite concerns with how pop-up projects are installed, they are working in several cities. In San Francisco, the Transformation Department’s biggest success is a makeshift bike lane that officials decided to keep until the city can install a permanent one. And in Chicago, artist Jim Bachor is providing a small fix to the city’s pothole problem by filling them with mosaics that display candy bars, popsicles and flowers. The city hasn’t approved his creations, which number more than 50 since he began in 2013, but they haven’t been removed, either.

“Temporary demonstration projects are a win-win situation,” Ferrier said. “People dubious about change can experiment with it. They usually don’t change back.”

White acknowledged that more people are pushing for improvements in Dallas, where the streets have long been considered some of the worst in the country for bicyclists. From 2011 through 2015, there were more than 4,000 accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians in Dallas County, with 281 fatalities, according to data from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“We’re going through growing pains right now, but we’re trying to catch up very quickly,” he said. “Putting in dedicated bikes lanes is a newer concept for Dallas. In some areas, people aren’t used to it. We have to work with them a little bit longer.”

Activists say such change isn’t happening fast enough and that they’ll continue with their approach until things improve.

“For me, it’s about empowering people to improve their own neighborhood,” Layne said. “If they do this, they might show up at a public meeting or go vote. I want them to say, ‘When I saw your project, it gave me the courage to do something in my neighborhood.’”

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Lawmakers herald agreement on sweeping Russia sanctions bill

Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday they had reached an agreement on a sweeping Russia sanctions package to punish Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said lawmakers had settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to Donald Trump’s persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

Passage of the bill, which could occur before Congress breaks for the August recess, puts Capitol Hill on possible collision course with Trump. The White House had objected to a key section of the bill that would mandate a congressional review if Trump attempted to ease or end the sanctions against Moscow. But if Trump were to veto the bill, he risks sparking an outcry from Republicans and Democrats and having his decision overturned. The sanctions review was included in the bill because of wariness among lawmakers from both parties over Trump’s affinity for Putin.

The precise mechanics of how involved House Democrats would be in the review process had been a key sticking point, but Hoyer said he’s satisfied with the outcome.

“The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” Hoyer said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the sanctions legislation “strong” and he expected the legislation to be passed promptly.

“Given the many transgressions of Russia, and Trump’s seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential,” said Schumer, D-N.Y.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted a legislative business schedule that shows the sanctions bill will be voted on Tuesday. McCarthy, R-Calif., had pushed to add the North Korea sanctions to the package. The House had overwhelmingly passed legislation in May to hit Pyongyang with additional economic sanctions, but the Senate had yet to take up the bill.

The Senate last month passed sanctions legislation that targeted only Russia and Iran. Congressional aides said there may be resistance among Senate Republicans to adding the North Korea penalties, but it remained unclear whether those concerns would further stall the legislation. The aides were not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

“North Korea, Iran and Russia have in different ways all threatened their neighbors and actively sought to undermine American interests,” McCarthy and Representative Ed Royce of California, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a joint statement. “The bill the House will vote on next week will now exclusively focus on these nations and hold them accountable for their dangerous actions.”

The House and Senate negotiators addressed concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. The bill raises the threshold for when U.S. firms would be prohibited from being part of energy projects that also included Russian businesses.

Although there is widespread support for the legislation, the bill stalled after it cleared the Senate over constitutional questions and bickering over technical details. In particular, House Democrats charged that GOP leaders had cut them out of the congressional review that would be triggered if Trump proposed to terminate or suspend the Russia sanctions. But Republicans rejected the complaint and blamed Democrats for holding the bill up.

The review requirement in the sanctions bill is styled after 2015 legislation pushed by Republicans and approved in the Senate that gave Congress a vote on whether then-President Barack Obama could lift sanctions against Iran. That measure reflected Republican complaints that Obama had overstepped the power of the presidency and needed to be checked by Congress.

According to the bill, Trump is required to send Congress a report explaining why he wants to suspend or terminate a particular set of sanctions. Lawmakers would then have 30 days to decide whether to allow the move or reject it.

The North Korea sanctions bill included in the package bill cleared the House by a 419-1 vote and House Republicans became frustrated the Senate didn’t move quickly on the measure given the vast bipartisan support it received. The measure bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country’s Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.


►  Cuba’s public face of diplomacy with U.S. leaving post

Cuban officials say the public face of the country’s diplomatic opening with the United States is leaving her post to become ambassador to Canada.

Josefina Vidal was sworn in to her new role Sunday at a ceremony presided over by President Raul Castro, according to Cuban media.

Officials said Vidal’s deputy Gustavo Machin would also leave the division of U.S. affairs to become ambassador to Spain.

Vidal and Machin were given unusual rein to talk publicly about Cuba’s relations with Washington. Both offered regular briefings to journalists about the state of diplomatic ties, which were re-established two years ago.

The Cuban government did not immediately say who would take their places.


►  Baby Charlie protesters rally as hospital reports threats

Protesters who want critically ill British baby Charlie Gard to receive an experimental medical treatment rallied Sunday, while hospital officials say emotions are running so high in the heart-breaking case they have received death threats.

A small group of about 20 activists supporting Gard’s parents, including some from the United States, gathered Sunday afternoon outside the High Court in London where legal proceedings will resume Monday with new medical evidence expected.

Charlie has a rare genetic condition and suffers from brain damage. His case, which pits his parents’ wishes in conflict with the views of doctors treating him, has generated international attention.

His parents are fighting to get him more medical care but Great Ormond Street Hospital officials say the experimental treatment won’t work and will just cause the 11-month-old more suffering. They argue that his life support should be turned off and he should receive palliative care.

Hospital chairwoman Mary MacLeod said the London police have been contacted because of numerous threats received by the hospital’s employees.

“Staff have received abuse both in the street and online,” she said. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats.”

MacLeod said families visiting other ill children have also been “harassed and discomforted” on the grounds of the renowned hospital in London.

Charlie’s parents have lost all previous court cases, including one before the European Court of Human Rights, which were designed to force the hospital to let them bring their son to the United States for an experimental treatment.

The loss in the European court, following an earlier defeat in Britain’s Supreme Court, seemed final. But both Pope Francis and U.S. Donald Trump expressed an interest in Charlie’s fate, and the hospital asked for a new court hearing because of what the family claimed was new medical evidence.

Charlie has been examined by Dr. Michio Hirano, an American neurology expert from Columbia Medical Center in New York who has designed the proposed experimental treatment.

The doctor’s findings are expected to figure heavily in Monday’s court proceedings, as are the results of Charlie’s recent brain scans.

A lawyer representing the hospital said in a brief hearing Friday that the latest brain scan results make for “sad reading.”

That prompted an angry outburst from Charlie’s father, Chris Gard, and prompted his mother, Connie Yates, to burst into tears.


►  Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak ends his term

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, a prominent figure in the controversy over Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has ended his assignment in Washington.

The Russian Embassy in Washington announced on Twitter that Kislyak’s tenure ended on Saturday.

Kislyak’s successor has not been announced, although it is widely expected to be Anatoly Antonov, a deputy foreign minister and former deputy defense minister seen as a hardliner regarding the United States.

Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after lying about contacts with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election after reports that he had not disclosed meetings with Kislyak.

Sunday Storms Could Cause Flash Flooding

The Free Press WV

More than two dozen counties in West Virginia are under a Flash Flood Watch through Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Additional rounds of thunderstorms containing very heavy rain could cause flooding along small streams and poor drainage areas, meteorologists said.

The counties under the watch include: Mason, Jackson, Wood, Pleasants, Tyler, Putnam, Kanawha, Roane, Wirt, Calhoun, Ritchie, Doddridge, Clay, Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Harrison, Taylor, Upshur Barbour, Fayette, Nicholas, Webster, Pocahontas, and Randolph.

JUSTICE ON HIGHER EDU FINANCIAL AID: Heads Will Roll

The Free Press WV

For the last three years West Virginia screwed up the audit process that needs to be submitted to the Federal Department of Education. Back in January, the Justice Administration made it clear that failing for three years in a row is unacceptable. Despite our efforts, when the March 31 information deadline arrived the train was too far off the tracks for the Governor’s staff to rescue it.

Governor Justice announced that he is getting to the bottom of who is responsible for this disastrous mistake three years in a row. The net result of this mistake is that West Virginia’s state institutions have been sanctioned and will have to float a greater share of student loan funding up front.

“When I find out who is responsible heads will roll,” said Governor Jim Justice. “Our schools and students are being penalized because of a mistake that’s been brewing two years and ten months before I got here. We’ve got to get to the bottom of it because West Virginians deserve better.”

Justice added, “There is going to be finger pointing like crazy, but the only way to improve is to admit that something isn’t working. I didn’t break it but I’ll fix it. In the past our federal delegation was able to correct this and I hope they can help me fix it again this year.”


07.23.2017
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Hope you are better at it than paying your taxes…. and better at it than the group of buffoons called the WV Legislature, are at creating a budget.

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West Virginia News

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►  Trump to visit Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia

The Boy Scouts of America says Donald Trump will visit the 2017 National Scout Jamboree next week in West Virginia.

On Monday, Trump will become the eighth U.S. president to attend a Jamboree. More than 40,000 Scouts, their leaders and volunteers are at the 10-day event.

Details of the visit were not immediately available. The Boy Scouts says the event is not open to the public.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited the Jamboree on Friday.

Presidents dating back to George H.W. Bush attended the Jamboree when it was previously held at a military base at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. President Barack Obama declined an invitation from the Scouts to address the 2010 Jamboree in Virginia and the 2013 Jamboree when it was held for the first time in West Virginia.


►  West Virginia State Fair to run 10 days in August

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture has announced plans for this year’s 10-day State Fair at the fairgrounds in Fairlea, Greenbrier County.

The fair is scheduled August 10-19. The department has posted a calendar.

The department says it will host wine tastings, honey extraction demonstrations and stakeholder meetings.

The fair’s country store will feature state-grown products.

Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt says this year’s theme is “local food and why it matters.”

Daily adult tickets will cost $11 at the gate. Children under 13 get in free.

Advance discount tickets are available HERE.


►  All lanes of Interstate 79 set to re-open this week

After 15 weeks of construction on Interstate 79 between Anmoore and Lost Creek, motorists might finally be relieved of one-lane and merging headaches next week.

“Right now, (Triton Construction is) planning on having it back open this Tuesday. That’s the plan, barring any weather issues,” state Division of Highways District 4 Construction Manager Jason Nelson said.

Thunderstorms were forecast for Saturday and Sunday, however, due to the excessive heat.

“They anticipate sometime next week,” Nelson added. “We want to get that back open and get rid of the delays.”

Triton Construction was influenced to complete the project “pretty early,” thanks to a monetary incentive, state Department of Transportation Director of Communications Brent Walker said. At the end of June, Walker had predicted work would be completed by the beginning of August.

“People will still see work going on,” Nelson said earlier this week. “They have a lot of work to do yet, rehabbing the beams underneath. People can expect some shoulder closures, but we don’t expect to have any more full lane closures.”

The project, originally costing approximately $3.8 million, was a combination of two road projects with overlapping work zones. It was part of the department’s six-year plan. However, the final cost of the project won’t be available until the work is completed.

In total, nine structures were replaced before concrete became loose and created potholes or other safety hazards. Four were bridges.

“They were all in need of work. Their decks pretty-much reached the end of their life,” Nelson said.

Nelson cautioned that motorists will still see beam repairs, plate welding to reinforce the beams and cleaning and painting. Shoulder closures will also begin “pretty-much immediately.”

“There is more work to be done under a few of the bridges,” Nelson said. “Some of it started now, but there won’t be any road closures. The work will be done under shoulder closures near the bridges. Lanes will be open, but there will be some sporadic shoulder closures around that area because equipment will be parked in there.”

Most beam repair is scheduled for no later than July 31.

Painting could last until September, when the project was originally scheduled to conclude. The initial completion was scheduled for September 8, the Friday following Labor Day, to ensure West Virginia University football fans could travel to Morgantown for the first home game of the season.

Cleaning, painting and other miscellaneous repairs will be completed by Specialty Groups Inc of Bridgeport — a subcontractor of Triton Construction.

State Police troopers at the Fairmont Detachment monitored the work zone daily to make sure motorists abided by the 55 mph work zone speed limit, paid attention to traffic and remained off their cellular devices.

July 16, contractors installed an aerial crossing near Jerry Dove Drive in Bridgeport that caused a morning traffic delay.

Construction along the highway began April 10.

National News

The Free Press WV


►  Federal grand jury indicts U.S. soldier on terrorism charges

A federal grand jury in Hawaii indicted a U.S. soldier Friday for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang was arrested by an FBI SWAT team on July 8. Kang was ordered held without bail.

Kang will be arraigned in federal court on Monday when he had previously been scheduled for a preliminary hearing. Kang’s court-appointed attorney, Birney Bervar, told The Associated Press Friday that the indictment was expected.

“We haven’t had a preliminary in federal court here in probably 25 years,” Bervar said. “They don’t like to let us question their witnesses.”

Bervar said his client will plead not guilty on Monday when a federal judge will set a trial date.

Bervar said he is working on getting Kang a mental health evaluation and that his client may suffer from service-related mental health issues.

A “turning point” for Kang’s mental state seems to be a 2011 deployment, Bervar said. “He’s a decorated American soldier for 10 years, goes to Afghanistan and comes back and things start going off the rails.”

Elliot Enoki, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii, and Dana Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, announced that the indictment in a statement.

Kang is charged with four counts of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group based on events that occurred in Hawaii between June 21 and July 08, they said.

Federal officials say Kang met with undercover FBI agents he thought were with the terror group and provided classified military documents to the agents.

The FBI said in their criminal complaint that Kang wanted to commit a mass shooting after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.


►  ‘Let 1994 go’: Simpson case’s racial symbolism now a relic

Justin Zimmerman was a 7-year-old black boy in Moreno Valley, California, when O.J. Simpson was on trial for murder.

He wasn’t old enough to understand the “trial of the century,” but his parents and the older black people in his community made their position clear: They were cheering for Simpson, and were convinced the former NFL star was an innocent dupe in a racial conspiracy. For them, Simpson was a symbol of racial tension and uneven justice.

But Zimmerman, now 30 and living in Washington, D.C., grew up amid the hashtags that have come to symbolize the killings of unarmed black men by police. On his Facebook page on Thursday — after Simpson was granted parole from armed robbery and assault convictions — Zimmerman posted: “Let 1994 go guys.”

“The most relevant thing that came out of O.J. since the trial was the Kardashians for millennials,” said Zimmerman, referring to Simpson’s close friendship with the reality-TV clan that was highlighted in a recent television series about the case. Family patriarch Robert Kardashian, a lawyer, was on Simpson’s defense team during the murder trial.

“We don’t have an O.J.,” Zimmerman said. “For me, that was Trayvon Martin. He was me. That resonates more to me ... It wasn’t like (Simpson) was at the forefront of any movement.”

While millions watched Simpson’s parole hearing last week, audiences were hardly as emotionally invested as they were a generation ago watching his murder trial. Simpson’s 1995 acquittal in the deaths of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman bitterly polarized Americans around race.

But interest has waned, attitudes have changed and black Americans are wrestling with more familiar injustices.

Today, Simpson’s racial symbolism is largely seen as a relic.

“We just have bigger concerns that are much more directly impacting our specific lives,” said University of Pennsylvania sociologist Camille Z. Charles. “We now have symbols that reflect what actually happens to most black people. Most black people don’t get fancy lawyers that get them off. They don’t have jurors that will be sympathetic because of celebrity. The tide has shifted.”

On October 3, 1995, an estimated 150 million people — more than half the country at the time — tuned in to hear the jury’s verdict in Simpson’s trial for the Brown-Goldman murders. The strategy for Simpson’s defense team — which included legendary black litigator Johnnie Cochran — was to frame the case around race. They argued that Simpson had been framed by a corrupt and racist Los Angeles Police Department.

Simpson spent much of his life distancing himself from the black community. He lived in the wealthy enclave of Brentwood in Los Angeles and traded his black college sweetheart for a blonde, white woman. And he once said, “I’m not black. I’m OJ.” Still, many African-Americans saw the former running back and actor as a pioneer and cultural icon. Even before he became a criminal defendant, Simpson stood for something bigger.

Charles McKinney, who is black, was at work on June 17, 1994, when a friend called and told him to turn on the television. In his office with his white co-worker, the two saw the infamous Bronco chase as Simpson tried to elude police on a California highway.

“My co-worker was like, ‘I think we should both go home and watch this,’” recalled McKinney, now 49, and a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. “I knew it was a simultaneously fascinating and toxic mix of race, reality television and celebrity, to see how quickly the nation just split itself along racial lines and how black folks tried to navigate this moment.”

At the time, many blacks were less concerned with Simpson’s guilt or innocence. For them, Simpson’s wealth balanced the scales of justice in a way that was impossible for most black defendants: He could afford to buy his freedom.

“That sort of euphoria around somebody black working the criminal justice system and having it come out the way that it comes out for white folks all the time was kind of a big deal,” Charles said. “We knew ‘not guilty’ didn’t mean ‘innocent.’”

Time has sobered the view of many blacks since the verdict. Recent polls show that a majority of blacks now say they believe Simpson was guilty — a view shared by only about 20 percent of blacks at the time of the trial.

Simpson found new relevance with millennials and sparked nostalgia with Generation Xers last year with a wildly popular docuseries and documentary about the murder case. And rapper Jay-Z’s new album, “4:44,” includes a song titled “Story of OJ.”

When Simpson was convicted in Nevada for a hotel-room heist in 2008 and sentenced to up to 33 years in prison, blacks and whites perceived the harsh sentence as a proxy justice for his earlier acquittal. Still, McKinney wasn’t glued to his television for Thursday’s hearing. His initial reaction: Who cares?

“It’s older white people or people who were around in 1994,” McKinney said. “You get them mad about the case again. For folks in my generation, nobody was running home to watch this. He’s a symbol, but we have lots of symbols now of people who embody these tensions.”

Simpson’s hearing on Thursday also didn’t resonate with Shane Walk, 23, of Albuquerque, a white man who was an infant when the verdict came down.

“I didn’t live through the trial, so he doesn’t represent to me, at least, to be a racial, polarizing figure as he did with previous generations,” said Walk, adding that he felt the hearing was just another passing fad for the media and that people his age should focus on the current divisions in our country.

For Zimmerman, that focus belongs more on the modern-day issues around race and policing that Simpson’s case once captured.

“I have no vested interest in O.J.,” Zimmerman said. “I would like for our country to get over certain things that just really don’t affect us. His freedom doesn’t affect anybody. There’s no systemic issue with O.J. being free.”


►  Optimism survives on 25th anniversary of Seeds of Peace

Middle East peace is no closer today than it was a quarter century ago when Seeds of Peace brought the first Israeli and Palestinian teens together in the woods of Maine. But the latest group to spend time together sees reason for optimism.

Husam Zarour, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, said Israeli and Palestinian youth have inherited an untenable situation but that it’s their job to fix it.

“We are born in this place and running way is not a solution. We should not give up. We should face this issue and try to solve it,” the 16-year-old said.

The lakeside camp that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary was created when the late foreign news correspondent John Wallach brought a group of Israeli and Arab teens in 1993 amid clashes over territory and Palestinians’ desire for an independent state. The hope is to find common ground so that one day, there can be lasting peace.

Over the years, more than 6,000 graduates of the program have become politicians, business leaders, teachers, journalists, nonprofit leaders and parents. Many of the Arab-Israeli friendships that took root in Maine have endured despite violence in the homeland.

Yet peace remains as elusive as ever.

“I don’t think our founder was under the impression that we were going to create the peace treaty overnight,” executive director Leslie Lewin said while watching the teens play soccer. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but we feel like we’re making a dent.”

The 67-acre (27-hectare) camp has expanded its reach over the years, bringing in teenagers from other trouble spots such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, India and Pakistan. These days, there’s also a separate camp for U.S. teens aimed at healing some of the nation’s divisions.

The three-week camp, which wraps up this weekend, relies on the same formula used since the beginning. Built on respect, trust and communication, teenagers raised to see each other as enemies learn through dialogue sessions that they have a lot in common despite differences in culture and religion.

Noam Gabay, a 15-year-old from Tiberias, Israel, said former foes that he knew only from news accounts were transformed into something he couldn’t fathom before.

“I didn’t think we could be friends,” he said.

The only Maine summer camp protected by state police provides a safe haven for the teens, some of whom have had friends and family killed or jailed.

Each day, there are discussions in which the teens share their stories, followed by group challenges where campers are thrust into in trust-oriented activities. They also join in traditional summer camp activities like boating, swimming, games, drama, art and music.

Ynon Reiner, 14, of Kiryat Ono, Israel, described working with a Palestinian teen on a ropes course high above the ground. They had to pass each other to get to the other side. Complicating things, Reiner was blindfolded and relying on instructions of his Palestinian peer.

“You’re suspended in the air. Someone is telling you what to do. You don’t care if he’s a Palestinian. You’re 6 meters (20 feet) high!” Reiner said.

Through angry and tearful discussions, the campers learned about each other’s suffering. They also learned about common goals.

“We both deserve a peaceful life. We both deserve a happy life. And we want this for our kids. We don’t want our kids to live in the same way we lived,” Zarour said.

But the campers know it’ll take time and hard work to bring a lasting peace.

One of the counselors likened the peace process to an architect designing a beautiful cathedral back in the days when construction sometimes took hundreds of years.

“Architects would commit to a plan even though they knew neither they nor their grandchildren would see it. This conflict is so complicated. If no one has solved until now, then it will take time,” said Noga Kaplan, a 15-year-old from Haifa, Israel.


►  Ohio prosecutor: Infant whose remains found was born alive

The attorney for an 18-year-old Ohio woman accused of burying an infant alive outside her family’s home said the teen is a “very good person” who has worked with disabled children.

Brooke Skylar Richardson pleaded not guilty through her attorney to a reckless homicide charge on Friday during a brief municipal court hearing in the southwest Ohio city of Franklin. A judge continued her $15,000 bond.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Friday the charge was based on evidence that the infant was “born alive and was not a stillborn baby.” A criminal complaint said the infant died on May 7.

The remains were found July 14 in Carlisle, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Cincinnati. Investigators are waiting on a final report from the county coroner’s office about how the infant died.

The Dayton Daily News has reported that authorities found the remains after receiving a tip from a doctor’s office.

Attorney Charles Rittgers told reporters after Friday’s hearing that Richardson, a college-bound high school cheerleader, is “by all means a very good person.”

Rittgers declined to comment further.


►  Deer sent airborne by passing car kills woman passenger

Authorities say an Ohio woman has been killed when a deer struck and sent airborne by a motorist traveling in the opposite direction smashed into the windshield of her family’s car.

The State Highway Patrol in northeast Ohio’s Trumbull County says 39-year-old Amy Stoneburner, of Negley, was in the front passenger seat when the deer flew into and through the car’s windshield Thursday night. The crash occurred about 68 miles (109 kilometers) east of Cleveland.

Stoneburner died at the scene. Her 37-year-old husband, Daniel, who was driving the car, and their two children, 9-year-old Jessica and 12-year-old Michelle, were treated for minor injuries at a hospital.

The 69-year-old driver of the car that struck the deer and his three passengers weren’t injured.

International News

The Free Press WV

►  Mexico City sees drug-war-style violence come to the capital

Burnt-out vehicles. Road blockades. A raging gun battle between armored marines and gang members that left eight dead.

Such scenes have been common in border cities like Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo, and figures released Friday show the death toll from Mexico’s drug war has reached new heights this year. But residents of the capital were stunned this week to see that kind of mayhem in their own city.

Thursday’s shootout, along with the recent emergence in a working class neighborhood of an apparent group of “vigilantes” — styled after self-defense militias that rose up against a drug cartel in the western state of Michoacan — have left authorities scrambling to maintain their long-held claims that drug cartels don’t operate in Mexico City.

Thursday’s shootout saw some 1,300 police and marines deployed on the streets of Tlahuac, a poor borough on the southeastern outskirts that was a rural area until a few years ago. Photos from the scene showed the slain suspects were carrying assault rifles instead of the pistols usually used in most armed crimes in Mexico City.

Perhaps most shocking was the appearance of organized roadblocks put up by gang members or sympathizers to impede the movements of police. City officials said gang members hijacked about five buses or trucks, and video images showed teams of motorcyclists parking their vehicles to shut down an expressway and then setting fire to a bus after the passengers fled.

“The narco-blockades come to Mexico City,“ the newspaper El Universal wrote in a front-page headline Friday.

The nation’s capital once looked on the drug war as a battle fought in outlying states. Not anymore. The capital’s violence is still far from the worst, though its murder rate went up by 21 percent in the first six months of this year, according to the newly released government security statistics.

Those show homicides over the first half of the year increased 31 percent over the same period last year, in the worst bout of such violence in at least 20 years — even worse than the previous peak year of 2011.

But unlike 2011, when the violence was largely concentrated in border states like Chihuahua and Tamaulipas — where Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo are located —homicides are now on the rise throughout the entire country, making much of the country look like a hotspot.

In Thursday’s clash, swarms of motorcycle rickshaws, a form of taxi with a canopied metal seating unit towed behind the vehicle, were used for the blockades. Police hauled off 47 of them and arrested 16 suspects, many of them carrying their helmets.

Operators of the unregulated rickshaws “apparently maintained links with drug dealing, involving distribution,“ Mexico City police said in a statement.

Officials estimate there are about 5,000 of the unofficial cabs in the borough and have tried to eliminate then in the past. But in outlying areas where roads are rough, the rickshaws remain the transportation of choice for many residents who can’t afford to own a car or pay a regular taxi fare.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the gang, led by man nicknamed “The Eyes,“ employed a network of those drivers to distribute drugs and act as lookouts.

“They were using high-powered rifles, not pistols, which justified the government’s decision to use the marines,“ Benitez said.

The marines, considered Mexico’s most elite troops, have been deployed in other urban settings before, using helicopter-mounted machine guns against drug suspects. But outside of occasional patrols or other operations, they are seldom seen in the capital such numbers.

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera denied that the eight men killed in the shootout were members of a cartel, instead claiming that “a big gang of street-level drug dealers” was involved.

However he acknowledged “they had control” of the area and used some cartel-style tactics such as moving in armed convoys and putting up signs similar to those seen in cartel strongholds.

“We will neither tolerate vigilantes nor criminal groups in Mexico City,“ Mancera said at a news conference Friday.

Traditionally authorities have said the city’s traffic is too congested, and there are too many police officers — over 80,000 — for drug traffickers to move in convoys as they do other states.

The official line has been that while the gangs may have laundered money and sold drugs in the capital, they avoided the kind of unchecked violence seen elsewhere so as to not disrupt urban life and attract attention to themselves.

But the gang run by “The Eyes” evidently took on some trappings of the cartels, such as territorial control of drug dealing, wide-spread extortion of businesses, the use of assault rifles and the elimination of rival traffickers.

“This type of gang ... generally doesn’t operate in Mexico City’s main districts. They operate in poorer outlying areas,“ Benitez noted, saying that by contrast, gangs in the city center are more sophisticated and keep a lid on the violence.

Thursday’s shootout “doesn’t cause panic in the whole city because it occurred in an outlying area,“ Benitez said. “But it should be a wake-up call, because if it isn’t stopped quickly, drug cartels could enter the city.“

In Puebla, a state near the capital which had also previously been relatively quiet, authorities said Friday that a Navy operation to capture the leader of the state’s principal fuel theft ring resulted in the death of four suspects and one marine.

Two other marines were wounded and authorities were working to identify the dead.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park Town Tours Include More than Trains

Visitors of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in Pocahontas County are invited to take a tour showcasing the park’s past when it was a thriving company town of 2,000 residents during the peak logging years of the early 20th Century.

The tour will be led by naturalist/historian Monica Fleming. Along the way, visitors see the Cass Company Store, now a massive gift shop and retail store that also houses the Last Run Restaurant and railroad museum.

“The Company Store exterior and interior designs remain true to the 1900s,” Fleming said. “The store’s front porch overlooks the original rails and Shay locomotives that now work as a tourist train.”

The tour also includes company houses that now are rented as vacation cottages, as well as private residences within the town of Cass. The picket fences and reintroduced maple trees on Front Street reflect the homes’ logging era. Other landmarks include the Cass Hotel (circa 1902), the Masonic Lodge (circa 1904), the Presbyterian Church (circa 1905), and one of the most popular attractions: the Cass jail.

The Free Press WV
The Cass jail is a popular place for visitors to take photos and selfies.


“Folks like to take photos and selfies in the jail,” said Fleming. “The Mayor’s office is the upstairs of the jail. Before the jail’s construction in 1902, the town’s first constable would lock up law breakers in a box car.”

The boardwalks throughout town are reconstructions of actual sidewalks that once existed. The tour highlights the home and office of Dr. Uriah Hannah, the first company doctor who cared for the community of Cass for 29 years. The Cass Showcase, a metal structure where horse teams once were fed, invites visitors to enter and watch a film about Cass history and observe a HO scale model of the town as reference. The Showcase is open Tuesday through Sunday at scheduled times.

There is no fee to take part in the Cass town tours. Tours depart from the state park’s visitors center and last about 45 minutes. Tours are conducted through Labor Day twice every Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and on Labor Day Monday, three tours are scheduled at 1:30, 3:30 and 5 p.m. Tour days and times change during fall foliage season. A self-guided town tour narrative is available at www.cassrailroad.com.

To learn more about Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, activities, accommodations and events, visit www.cassrailroad.com or call 304.456.4300

West Virginia News

The Free Press WV

►  Boy Scout Jamboree service projects set at six state parks; WVDNR Wildlife and Law Enforcement staff assist at Summit Bechtel Reserve

Many of the Boy Scouts attending the 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County will be working on service projects at six West Virginia state park areas during the event. More than 40,000 scouts, leaders, and others are expected to attend the Jamboree, which takes place July 19-27.

West Virginia State Park areas hosting service projects are Camp Creek State Park, Greenbrier State Forest, Kanawha State Forest, Little Beaver State Park, Moncove Lake State Park and Twin Falls Resort State Park. Coordinated by the Boy Scouts of America, Summit organizers and park superintendents, scouts will tackle maintenance tasks and trail development work. Some parks have scheduled projects for two days, while Twin Falls State Park will host five different groups over five days.

“We are grateful to the BSA and our park superintendents for coordinating this experience for the scouts,” said State Parks Chief Sam England. “We appreciate being part of this national event held here in West Virginia, and we hope these young people and their adult supervisors will enjoy our parks and return in the future.”

Staff from the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement, Wildlife Resources and State Parks sections are joining other agencies to present “The Conservation Trail,” which includes displays and interactive activities with a nature theme. Scouts will be able to learn about careers in natural resources management and have an opportunity to complete some of the requirements for wildlife-related BSA merit badges.

DNR officers will teach proper shooting techniques by use of computer generated scenarios. DNR officers also are conducting whitewater river patrols when the scouts are on the river, and security patrols at the Summit. They’ll also assist with staffing the Jamboree command center.

“Meeting these youths and their leaders, and introducing resource management and our parks and forest through service projects, is part of the DNR mission,” said Art Shomo of the DNR Wildlife Resource Section. “Experiences at this Summit can become stories that are shared with family, friends and co-workers over the course of a lifetime. We are pleased to be part of the story.”


►  Justice: Liens Will Be Paid Once Disputes Are Settled

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice says the tax liens against his family-owned businesses will be paid once disputes over them are resolved.

The first-year Democratic governor said big companies have similar disagreements all the time.

Justice told The Associated Press he’s hopeful all of them will be settled within 30 days.

West Virginia Tax Department officials recently filed new liens for almost $1 million against Tams Management Inc., one of the Justice-owned coal companies.

In February, other tax liens showed another $4.4 million in unpaid state taxes due at least a year earlier.

As governor, Justice has turned over coal company operations to his son, Jay Justice.


►  Regulators Release Environmental Assessment of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline intended to carry natural gas across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina would have some adverse environmental effects, including impacts on water resources, forest and other habitats, but most could be reduced to insignificant levels, an assessment by federal regulators found.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate natural gas pipelines, released its final environmental impact statement Friday for the proposed 600-mile (965-kilometer) pipeline, which has broad support from political and business leaders but is staunchly opposed by environmentalists and many affected landowners.

The assessment found that the pipeline would also impact some endangered species in its path. But it concluded that if developers use proper construction and mitigation techniques, most of environmental impacts could be reduced to “less-than-significant” levels.

The leading company behind the $5 billion project called the assessment “favorable” and said it paved the way for final approval later this year.

“While some impacts on the environment and landowners are unavoidable with any infrastructure project, the report demonstrates that we’ve taken all necessary steps to minimize those impacts and balance them with the urgent public need for the project,” Leslie Hartz, Dominion Energy’s vice president for engineering and construction, said in a statement.

Environmental groups have argued that FERC’s process for approving pipelines is broken and doesn’t adequately evaluate the true need for additional infrastructure.

“FERC still hasn’t addressed the most basic question hanging over this project: Is it even needed?” Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert said in a statement. “It’s FERCs responsibility to determine if this pipeline is a public necessity before it allows developers to take private property, clear forests, and carve up mountainsides. Mounting evidence shows that it is not.”

The agency’s commissioners will weigh the environmental impact statement as well as whether the project meets a public need and whether its proposed gas rates are just and reasonable in making that decision, according to FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen.

Ordinarily, a final decision can come any time after a pipeline’s final environmental impact statement is complete, but the five-member panel currently lacks a quorum, with only one commissioner currently serving.

Donald Trump has announced four nominees, who still must be approved by the Senate.

Initially proposed in 2014, the underground pipeline would originate in north-central West Virginia, cross Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and run south of the Virginia capital of Richmond to a compressor station near the North Carolina border. An extension would run to the Hampton Roads area along the coast while the main pipeline would continue into North Carolina, ending near the South Carolina line.

Pipeline proponents — including union leaders, economic development officials and top lawmakers of both parties in all three states — have said it would deliver cheap and abundant energy that is cleaner than coal.

Developers also promised construction alone would create will create 17,000 new jobs and $2.7 billion in economic activity across the region, and once the pipeline is operational, they say the reliable supply of natural gas will attract heavy manufacturers that have previously passed over Virginia and North Carolina.

Opponents, however, said the pipeline would infringe on landowners’ property rights, damage pristine areas and commit the region to a fossil fuel just when global warming makes it essential to invest in renewable energy instead. They also argue the demand for gas has been overstated and the capacity of existing infrastructure has been underestimated.

The pipeline is being developed by four energy companies: Richmond-based Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas.

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