Citynet: Frontier Misused Federal Funds, False Claims Suit Alleges
Bridgeport-based Internet provider Citynet has filed a lawsuit against Frontier Communications under the False Claims Act, alleging Frontier misused $40.5 million in federal stimulus funds and built a high-speed broadband network designed to shut out its competitors in West Virginia.
Citynet accuses Frontier of double-billing, falsifying records and charging excess fees not authorized by the federal grant that paid for the broadband expansion project completed two years ago.
The lawsuit also names state officials — Homeland Security chief Jimmy Gianato, Chief Technology Officer Gale Given and former Commerce Secretary Kelly Goes — as defendants, saying the trio was complicit with Frontier’s scheme to defraud the federal government.
Citynet initially filed the federal lawsuit in 2014, but it was kept under seal until this week. A revised complaint was filed Monday, after the U.S. Justice Department declined to intervene in the case. The federal government typically joins about 25 percent of lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act.
Citynet and Frontier lawyers declined to comment Tuesday. Frontier is West Virginia’s largest Internet provider.
In 2010, West Virginia received $126.3 million in federal stimulus funds to provide high-speed Internet to 1,064 public facilities — mostly schools, libraries, health clinics, courthouses and State Police detachments. About $40 million of the $126.3 million was set aside to build a fiber-cable network.
Citynet alleges that Frontier was supposed to build an “open-access middle-mile network” that linked public facilities to Frontier “central office” hubs, where other Internet providers could hook up to the network and serve customers in rural markets.
Instead, Frontier constructed a “last-mile” network that linked the buildings to the company’s existing fiber utility poles, “essentially rendering the newly constructed facilities useless to competitors,” according to the lawsuit.
Gianato “unilaterally” signed off on that plan, according to the lawsuit. The project locked schools, libraries and other public agencies into doing business with Frontier “in perpetuity,” Citynet alleges.
“Frontier did not want to build the 915-mile open-access middle-mile network because it would be catastrophic to Frontier’s business in that it would allow competition from other broadband service providers,” the complaint states.
Citynet alleges Frontier grossly overstated the miles of fiber needed to build the broadband network. In the state’s application for stimulus funds, more than 400 of the 1,064 public facilities designated to receive fiber already had fiber service.
In Boone County, 20 of 30 buildings already had fiber, and 94 of the 115 public facilities in Kanawha County did not need fiber, according to the complaint.
Citynet claims that Frontier “double-counted” fiber to 58 buildings in 32 counties, and “used excessive maintenance coil to make up for fiber not constructed.”
“Frontier also misrepresented the proposed distances for many of the community anchor institutions by simply inputting the same number for several projects,” the lawsuit alleges. “Incredibly, there were 36 [buildings] in seven different counties that each required the exact same 4,390 feet of new fiber.”
The lawsuit alleges that Frontier submitted nearly 700 invoices that should never have been paid under stimulus grant rules. Given and Gianato approved the bulk of those invoices, which totaled more than $5 million
“Frontier also engaged in a practice of billing the [federal broadband] grant for material and labor it did not provide, and for fiber lengths that were not constructed,” the complaint alleges.
The Federal Communications Commission ranked West Virginia 48th in the nation for broadband access before the state received its $126.3 million stimulus grant. After the project was completed, West Virginia ranked 53rd among 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver.
~~ Eric Eyre ~~
Hospital Volunteer Awarded Honorary Doctorate of Ministry Degree
Bridgeport, WV –United Hospital Center volunteer Ireta Kirby was congratulated on her 40 plus years of service in her church and community by receiving an honorary Doctorate of Ministry Degree.
Kirby was nominated by close friends in the ministry who felt her work should be recognized. The award is given to those who have shown exemplary work in the community for more than 35 years.
One way Kirby has served her community is by volunteering at United Hospital Center. She has been a volunteer at UHC since January 2011, and in that time she has helped to really make a difference.
“Ireta is the kind of person that would do anything for anyone,” said Denise Steffich, auxiliary coordinator at UHC.
When asked what motivates Kirby to give so much of herself back to the community, her answer was “I’ve fallen in love with helping people,” said Kirby.
“I have no plans to stop anytime soon,” said Kirby.
Coal, Enthusiasm Fueling Prime Role for WV in Cleveland
CHARLESTON, WV —West Virginia’s delegation to the Republican National Convention received prime placement right by the podium for Tuesday’s vote to nominate the party’s candidate. One delegate, Ron Walters - member of the West Virginia state House of Delegates and a Trump supporter - said they received that honor because it presents a picture of strong support for Donald Trump.
“The Trump team has asked that we do the vote, and we’ve been given a prime location on the floor,” Walters said. “We’re just to the right of the podium as they’re looking at us, and we’ll have our hard hats on tonight.“
When Trump visited Charleston before the state primary, the coal industry group, Friends of Coal, gave him a white hard hat to wear at his event. Friends of Coal gave everyone in the delegation a similar hard hat, according to Walters. He said he has even been asked to donate his to the Smithsonian.
The link to coal mining was clearly no accident. West Virginia has been trending Republican - and voting that way in presidential elections - since the end of the last Clinton presidency. Walters, like many members of his party, was sharply critical of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies. He said Trump promises to put miners back to work.
“Our pin say ‘Trump digs coal.‘ You know how many people really like that pin and want to trade with us? All the delegation is in line with the Trump program, a hundred percent supportive,” Walters said.
Many critics have pointed out that Trump has not said how he would bring back the mining jobs. They note that given the low price of gas and the fact that easy-to-mine coal is gone, Trump is almost certainly making an empty promise.
~~ Dan Heyman ~~
Did You Know?
CRUZ ANGERS GOP FAITHFUL
Boos fill the convention hall as the one-time presidential candidate finishes his prime-time speech without endorsing Trump.
TRUMP AIDE TAKES BLAME FOR CRIBBING MATERIAL
A staff writer at Trump’s business says she was the one who lifted several phrases from Michelle Obama that wound up in Melania Trump’s speech to the GOP convention.
LOUISIANA GUNMAN LEFT BEHIND MANIFESTO
The man who ambushed and killed three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge described his rampage in the handwritten document as a “necessary evil.“
TURKEY CLOSING HUNDREDS OF SCHOOLS
The continuing crackdown on perceived enemies following a failed coup spurs fears that the Erdogan government is throwing key institutions into disarray.
EXPECTED DEFEAT OF ISLAMIC STATE GROUP RAISES QUESTIONS
Defense leaders meeting in Washington express concerns about whether the rest of the world is ready to help rebuild war-torn cities like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.
WHO’S STILL IN A HOLDING PATTERN
Five years after Atlantis completed the space shuttle program’s final voyage, NASA remains at least a year away from launching its astronauts from U.S. soil.
WORLD’S LARGEST BEER MAKER GETTING EVEN LARGER
Anheuser-Busch InBev reaches an agreement with the Justice Department that clears the way for U.S. approval of its merger with SABMiller.
WHICH OTHER BIG CONVENTION IS BEING HELD THIS WEEK
Hordes of zombies, legions of Stormtroopers and leagues of superheroes gather in San Diego for the pop-culture celebration Comic Con.
‘GHOSTBUSTERS’ STAR LATEST CELEB TO ABANDON TWITTER
Leslie Jones drops off the social network after becoming the target of a torrent of racist and sexist comments.
WHY ‘GOLD’ MEDAL IS A MISNOMER
The medals given to Olympic champions are actually silver, with a tiny amount of gold plating.
In West Virginia….
► State Health Officer Provides Food Safety Reminders Following Flooding
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health is urging residents to use caution when using food following power outages or after being exposed to flood waters.
“It is important for residents who lost electrical power and were without a back-up generator to dispose of any perishable food items to help eliminate the possibility of food contamination,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “The use of potentially contaminated food, household products, medicines and cosmetics that have been exposed to flood waters may pose a threat to your health.”
The following may serve as a guide for food supply that has been exposed to flood water:
• All fresh fruits and vegetables, including home garden produce, should be destroyed.
• Foods such as cereals, bakery goods, dried fruits, flour, frozen foods, sugar, salt and similar foods inpaper or plastic containers or wrapping should be destroyed.
• All meats, including fresh, dried, frozen and home canned should be destroyed.
At your own risk, you may salvage commercially canned foods using the following method:
foods in hermetically sealed containers that remain airtight (free from severe dents, split seams or leaks) may be salvaged by removing the labels, washing the containers in water containing a detergent, rinsing in clear water, and submerging in a solution containing laundry bleach. Two (2) tablespoons of laundry bleach per one (1) gallon of water should be prepared frequently during the washing process. The food containers should be rinsed in cool water from a safe source. Re-label the containers as to contents for future use.
Foods, household products, medicines and cosmetics in containers with screw caps should be destroyed. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut.
Foods that have thawed or partially thawed should be destroyed; however, frozen foods that have remained in a closed freezer and have not been exposed to flood water or other contamination may be safe for use provided the time without refrigeration does not exceed 24 hours.
“Foodborne illness can be serious and poses significant health risks,” said Gupta. “In addition to individuals and families, supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurant owners need to be cautious. When in doubt, throw it out.”
► DHHR Announces Supplemental Low Income Energy Assistance Program Payment for July 2016
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced a supplemental Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) payment for West Virginia’s elderly residents, disabled residents and low income families who received a regular LIEAP payment this past winter.
“I am pleased we are able to provide a supplemental payment to eligible residents’ utility company or bulk fuel provider for home heating purposes,” said Nancy Exline, Commissioner for the Bureau for Children and Families. “This payment is a means to help offset rising heating costs experienced by some families during this past winter.”
Each resident who applied for and received a regular LIEAP Payment this winter will receive an additional $85.00 Regular LIEAP Supplemental Payment to be applied to their home heating account. This payment is automatic and customers who received the regular LIEAP Payment will not have to apply for the supplemental payment.
All payments are expected to be issued by July 31, 2016. If an individual received a regular LIEAP payment for bulk fuel, such as wood, coal, liquid petroleum, fuel oil, etc., the payment will be sent to their address currently listed with DHHR.
► West Virginia’s Unemployment Rate Drops
The unemployment rate in West Virginia decreased to 6 percent in June.
The number of unemployed state residents dropped by 1,400 to 47,200, according to WorkForce West Virginia.
The data shows the total unemployment was down 8,300 over the year.
The national employment rate increased to 4.9 percent.
Employment jumped by 100 in mining and logging, 300 in construction, but reduced by 200 in manufacturing.
Increases also included 300 in trade, transportation and utilities, 100 in information, 100 in financial activities, 1,900 in educational and health services, 1,500 in leisure and hospitality, and 100 in other services.
Decreases included 300 in professional and business services and 9,900 in government.
The report said the total non-farm payroll employment has decreased by 1,100 since June.
► FirstEnergy offering $20,000 reward for information regarding power line vandalism near Clarksburg
FirstEnergy, parent company of Mon Power, is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for vandalizing a power line being built in Harrison and Doddridge counties.
The $92 million power line is currently under construction. The project is meant to support the electric demands of the area’s Marcellus Shale gas industry and help enhance service reliability for nearly 13,000 Mon Power customers in the Clarksburg and Salem areas.
Todd Myers, spokesman for Mon Power, said someone recently cut the anchor bolts on a concrete foundation for one of the big steel pole structures in Reynoldsville, about five miles west of Clarksburg.
Nearby West Virginia roads include New Creek Road, Gladys Hollow Road, Route 7 and Delta Road.
Anyone with information is urged to call the FirstEnergy’s 24-Hour Security Tip Hotline at 1.866.487.2743.
► WVU Parkersburg planning 5% tuition hike
Despite a recent decision by the Community and Technical College System’s council not to raise tuition, WVU Parkersburg could see a 5 percent hike this fall.
President Dr. Fletcher Lamkin said the college is the oldest in the technical college system, and there’s many facilities that need upgrades.
“The buildings and grounds and infrastructure are showing their age,” Lamkin said. “For the longterm sustainability of the college, we need to be making those investments to ensure our facilities remain in excellent condition.”
With the increase, Lamkin says the budget is rock solid, not having to cut any programs or faculty and staff. He said a 5 percent raise seems high on the surface, but it’s reasonable considering the 15 percent raise that the council rejected last week.
“We’re the second lowest tuition in the state, even though the mean family income in this area is about average,” Lamkin explained. “That 15 percent sounds like a lot, but it’s basically 20 bucks an hour. That’s the cost of a giant pizza.”
Lamkin said the 5 percent hike, which does not have to be approved by the CTC, would have a minimal impact for students.
“They already receive and will continue to receive, those who are eligible, sufficient financial aid to completely cover their cost of education. What this will actually do is make us less dependant on state allocation, and enable us to make longterm investments in our infrastructure.”
WVU-Parkersburg has a substantial amount reserve money saved, but Lamkin said dipping into it would only be done in case of an emergency.
“We’re going to look for alternate sources, in some cases we may have to draw from cash reserves, but that would be a last resort.”
On the CTC council’s decision to reject the 15 percent raise, Lamkin said he wasn’t thrilled with the move, but he understood it and it’s time to move on.
“I think that our job at this point is to live with the decision, make the most of it and continue to do our best to provide high-quality programs for our region.”
The WVU Parkersburg board of governors meets again next month, and classes will begin August 15.
► Mosquito Bite Prevention is Important during Flood Clean Up
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health is encouraging residents to take mosquito bite precautions while conducting flood clean up.
“Flooding leads to increased mosquito activity which can elevate the risk of mosquito bites and the potential for mosquito-borne diseases,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “Standing or pooling water from recent heavy rainfall and flooding across the state have created conditions for mosquito breeding. It is important to be proactive in protecting yourself as flood clean up is underway.”
The following actions should be considered to reduce the risk of mosquitoes and mosquito bites in areas where flood clean up is occurring:
• Remove flood-water debris on and around your property.
• Empty or drain potted plant bases, tires, buckets or containers, and roof gutters.
• Drain any pooled rainwater or floodwater that may have collected in containers around your property.
• Be sure to wear insect repellent.
• Wear long sleeves and pants while conducting flood clean up.
• Dispose of potential mosquito breeding sites by emptying stagnant pools of water around your house and yard, if possible.
Mosquito-borne illness could include Lacrosse Encephalitis and West Nile Virus. More information about mosquito-borne disease and prevention is available online at www.dide.wv.gov.
► Flood Victims Can Get Disaster-Related Food Stamps
Residents who lived or worked in a dozen West Virginia counties during last month’s devastating floods may be eligible for disaster-related food stamps.
The Department of Health and Human Resources says in a news release that residents who aren’t normally eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may qualify for the benefits due to life-changing issues. Those include inability to access money in checking or savings accounts, unreimbursed disaster-related expenses and lost or reduced in income as a result of the floods.
Eligibility for the Disaster-SNAP benefits is based on net household income. People in Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster counties are eligible.
Applications are being accepted from July 25 to 31 at DHHR offices in each county.
► Statue Honoring Late Actor Don Knotts to be Unveiled
The city of Morgantown is planning a two-day celebration of the late actor Don Knotts.
A statue of Knotts is set for unveiling Saturday in front of the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown. Knotts already has a star of fame outside the theater.
After the unveiling ceremony, Knotts’ daughter, Karen Knotts, will perform a comedy show about growing up with her famous father. Don Knotts memorabilia also will be on display inside the theater lobby.
Another Don Knotts exhibit will be on display Saturday at the Morgantown History Museum. On Sunday, Karen Knotts will greet museum visitors.
Don Knotts grew up in Morgantown and graduated from West Virginia University.
Knotts, who died in 2006, starred in films and played Deputy Barney Fife on TV’s “The Andy Griffith Show.“
► McDonald’s, Starbucks agree to filter Wi-Fi porn
McDonald’s and Starbucks are implementing filtering technology that blocks customers using Wi-Fi from accessing pornography sites.
The move follows a campaign from anti-pornography groups Enough is Enough and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to demand the chains filter out pornography.
Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s says in a statement that Wi-Fi filtering has been activated in the majority of its nearly 14,000 restaurants nationwide. A spokesperson for Seattle-based Starbucks says it is implementing filtering once it can find a system that “also doesn’t involuntarily block unintended content.“
Enough is Enough President Donna Rice Hughes applauds the moves and says the organization plans to push other businesses and venues to filter their Wi-Fi.
The National Center for Sexual Exploitation says chains such as Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread already block porn on Wi-Fi.
► The 10 U.S. Cities That Are Warming the Fastest
The southwest corner of the US has long been known as a sweltering spot, but it’s only getting hotter, according to Climate Central, which ranked 178 US cities based on temperature changes since 1965. All but three have seen temperatures rise in the past 50 years, but some are warming faster than others. Here are the top 10 fastest warming cities, based on the average temperature rise per decade:
- Reno, Nev.: 1.39 degrees
- Phoenix, Ariz.: 1.12
- Las Vegas, Nev.: 1.04
- Riverside, Calif.: 0.95
- Prescott, Ariz.: 0.89
- Chattanooga, Tenn.: 0.82
- Tucson, Ariz.: 0.8
- Minneapolis, Minn.: 0.76
- El Paso, Texas: 0.75
- Duluth, Minn.; Fargo, ND; St. Louis, Mo.: 0.72
Click for the FULL LIST.
► Kansas Police Captain Killed in Shooting
A police officer in Kansas City, Kansas, was shot and killed Tuesday, becoming the second Kansas City officer killed in the line of duty in the past two months, the Kansas City Star reports. Officers responded to reports of people shooting from a car and arrived at the scene to see three or four people running from a vehicle. Capt. Robert Melton was attempting to stop one of the suspects when shots were fired and he was killed. According to KMBC, the 46-year-old Melton had been with the police department since 1999. He was also a veteran of Afghanistan. Two possible suspects have been detained. Police are still looking for two more.
“Kansans everywhere mourn his loss, grieve with his family, and pray for his fellow brothers and sisters in blue,“ KSHB quotes Governor Sam Brownback as saying in a statement. “Every day they risk their lives to protect ours and we are grateful for their service.” In May, another Kansas City police officer, Det. Brad Lancaster, was shot and killed. Melton was part of the honor guard at Lancaster’s funeral. “The tragic killing of our law enforcement officers must stop,“ KMBC quotes Rep. Kevin Yoder as saying.
► Toddler Dies Following Dental Procedure
A California family is “devastated” after a 3-year-old girl died Saturday following a dental procedure in San Ramon, CBS SF Bay Area reports. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, staff at Dentalbliss called 911 when they were unable to get Marvelena Rady to wake up following a procedure. She wasn’t breathing when emergency responders arrived and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Officials have said Marvelena died of complications from the dental procedure but haven’t said what the procedure was, whether she was under anesthesia, or what the cause of death is. No criminal investigation is being undertaken. Dentalbliss’ dentist is listed as Dr. Cheri Dang, who’s been licensed since 2009, the Mercury News reports. “God have mercy on you my daughter,“ Marvelena’s father posted on Facebook.
► Dad Dies Trying to Save Drowning Daughter in Hawaii
A father died trying to rescue his drowning daughter Saturday in Hawaii, CBS News reports. Six-year-old Mina Hornor of Berkeley, California, was walking along the rocks at the Makapuu Tide Pools on Oahu when she fell in the ocean. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser says she was knocked into the water by a wave. Her father, 46-year-old Mark Hornor, jumped in to save her. They were pulled further out to sea by a series of rogue waves, according to Hawaii News Now. By the time lifeguards on jet skis got to them, they were unresponsive. They died after being transported to the hospital.
Hornor’s brother says Hornor was an experienced surfer and in good physical shape. “He jumped in and tried to save her,“ Matthew Hornor tells Hawaii News Now. “I don’t think he wanted to come back empty handed.“ Another father and daughter drowned at the Makapuu Tide Pools in 2011, and authorities warn people to be careful in the area. On Saturday, there was a high-surf advisory and a lot of wind. “On a day like today, it wasn’t for families down there,“ a government spokesperson says.
► Manhattan May Get World’s First Underground Park
In 2009, right around the time the first section of the much-lauded High Line project opened to the public, offering New Yorkers access to an unused section of elevated railroad tracks in Manhattan that had been transformed into a green space, a couple of guys chatted one night over “too much wine” and plotted quite the opposite—an underground park. The Lowline, as it has come to be called, is the brainchild of James Ramsey, owner of the Lower East Side design firm Raad Studio, and Dan Barasch, who had been exploring installing underground art in the New York City subway system. What started off as a super-idealistic vision of the world’s first subterranean park replete with filtered natural sunlight has now been given a green light by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The park’s open date is projected to be in 2021.
The project technically goes back to 1908, when a 1-acre Williamsburg Bridge trolley terminal opened on Delancey Street to help transport residents of the Lower East Side to Brooklyn. By 1948 it was closed to the public and never used again, even though it’s right next to the city’s J/M/A subway line. At the heart of the redesign is the use of very forward-thinking solar tech that uses a “remote skylight,“ where sunlight is collected and passed through a glass shield, reflected and gathered to a focal point, and directed down through fiber-optic cables to a reflective surface that redistributes the collected light—just enough to enable photosynthesis. To be built in what Mother Nature Network describes as an already “tree-deprived Lower East Side,“ the project enjoyed two successful Kickstarter campaigns with thousands of supporters worldwide. “We’re channeling sunlight the way they did in ancient Egyptian tombs, but in a supermodern way,“ Ramsey told New York in 2011. In fact, when the sun is shining, the entire park will be solar powered, not just the greenery.
In The World….
► Turkey fires tens of thousands in coup plotters hunt
ISTANBUL — The Turkish government on Tuesday escalated its wide-ranging crackdown against people it claims have ties to plotters of last week’s attempted coup, firing tens of thousands of public employees across the country.
The dismissals touched every aspect of government life.
Turkish media, in rapid-fire reports, said the Ministry of Education fired 15,200 people across the country; the Interior Ministry 8,777 employees; and Turkey’s Board of Higher Education requested the resignation of 1,577 university deans — akin to dismissing them.
In addition, 257 people working at the office of the prime minister were dismissed and the Directorate of Religious Affairs announced it had sacked 492 staff including clerics, preachers and religious teachers. Turkey’s Family and Social Policy Ministry said it dismissed 393 personnel.
The firings come on top of the roughly 9,000 people who have been detained by the government, including security personnel, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and others. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said courts have ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial over their suspected roles in the coup attempt. Dozens of others were still being questioned.
Orhun Gedik, a 22-year-student in Istanbul, protested the new purges, saying politics and education shouldn’t mix.
“A government should not decide the hiring and firing,“ he said. “This government doesn’t want to listen to others.“
Critics of the government were also targeted for their social media postings. At least two people were reportedly arrested for insulting Erdogan on social media, while one also praised the coup.
The violence surrounding the Friday night coup attempt claimed the lives of 208 government supporters and 24 coup plotters, according to the government. Turkey says Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, was behind the coup and has demanded his extradition. Gulen has denied any knowledge.
Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, blamed a “Gulenist clique within the Turkish army” for the attempted coup.
“There will be legal evidence collected in this investigation and we will present all of this to the Americans as part of our extradition request,“ he said.
“On the grounds of suspicion, he can be easily extradited. We would like to see cooperation from the U.S. authorities on this issue.
President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Gulen’s status during a telephone call.
Apart from the conversation Tuesday, Turkey provided the U.S. government with documents that were being reviewed to determine whether it amounted to a formal extradition request for Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.
Anadolu Agency said Tuesday those formally arrested include former air force commander Gen. Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the July 15 uprising, and Gen. Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army, which is in charge of countering possible threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Ozturk has denied the allegation, saying he neither planned nor directed the failed military coup, according to the Anadolu Agency.
The agency said Erdogan’s Air Force adviser, Lt. Col. Erkan Kivrak, had been detained at a hotel where he was vacationing in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya. No reason was given for the detention.
A thousand pro-government demonstrators gathered for a rally in Istanbul Tuesday, waving flags and chanting slogans and songs praising President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The demonstrators amassed in the conservative district of Fatih and demanded the death penalty for those responsible for the failed coup.
“We are not leaving these squares,“ said Durhan Yilmiz, an Istanbul municipality worker. “(The) Turkish flag cannot be lowered.“
Pro-democracy meetings and rallies have been held in all of the major cities of Turkey.
In a bid to calm markets roiled by the coup attempt, Turkey’s central bank cut a key interest rate Tuesday to shore up liquidity in the economy. The bank’s Monetary Policy Committee said it has reduced its overnight marginal funding rate from 9 percent to 8.75 percent.
Erdogan, meanwhile, made a series of televised appearances in which he disclosed dramatic details of his survival on the night of a failed coup and raised the specter of reintroducing the death penalty to punish conspirators.
He told U.S. broadcaster CNN that he narrowly escaped death after coup plotters stormed the resort town of Marmaris where he was vacationing.
“Had I stayed 10, 15 additional minutes, I would have been killed or I would have been taken,“ he said in the interview late Monday.
The president and other officials have strongly suggested the government is considering reinstating the death penalty, a practice abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Several European officials have said such a move would be the end of Turkey’s attempts to join.
Addressing hundreds of supporters outside his Istanbul residence early Tuesday, Erdogan responded to calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty with the simple statement: “You cannot put aside the people’s demands.“
“In a country where our youths are killed with tanks and bombs, if we stay silent, as political people we will be held responsible in the afterlife,“ Erdogan said, pointing out that capital punishment exists around the world, including in the United States and China.
Turkey’s deputy prime minister said dossiers containing details of Gulen’s activities have been sent to the U.S. Numan Kurtulmus would not provide details about the files but said they include the past actions of the group that Gulen leads. They may also include new evidence that has emerged from the current investigation. Kurtulmus said an extradition request will follow.
Speaking to parliament, the chairman of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli, said his party would back legislation to reintroduce the death penalty if it was put forward by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
“If the AKP is ready, we are in for the death penalty,“ Bahceli said.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, meanwhile, reflected the triumphant mood of authorities. He said the July 15 victory over the plotters was “epic” and that no coup in the history of Turkey had been as brutal as the one that this government survived.
“The force of the tanks could not beat the force of the people,“ he said.
Yildirim also lashed out at Europe, whose leaders have expressed concerns over the purges underway across Turkey’s key state institutions.
“We thank our European friends for their support against the coup, however their sentences starting with ‘but’ did not please us at all,“ he said.
► France Attacker Took Selfies in Killer Truck
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel apparently spent days in a state of gleeful anticipation before he used a truck to kill at least 84 people in Nice, France. The Guardian reports that photos have emerged of the 31-year-old Tunisian posing for selfies in and next to the rented truck used in the horrific attack. In one, Bouhlel and a passenger can be seen giving the camera the finger while sitting in the cab of the truck. The passenger and another man who appears in Bouhlel’s photos are among those who were taken in for questioning after the attack last Thursday, the Telegraph reports. Bouhlel’s brother Jabeur tells Reuters that Bouhlel “seemed very happy and pleased, he was laughing a lot” in a photo he sent of himself amid a crowd in Nice just hours before the attack.
ISIS has called Bouhlel a “soldier,“ though relatives say he ate pork, drank alcohol, and didn’t go to the mosque, the Independent reports. According to reports in French media, phone records have revealed that Bouhlel met both men and women, including a 73-year-old man, through dating sites. Relatives say Bouhlel suffered from mental illness and was radicalized in just two weeks by an ISIS recruiter. David Canter, director of Britain’s International Research Center for Investigative Psychology tells the AP that Bouhlel appears to be more of a “spree killer,“ like the Columbine shooters, than a terrorist. Such killers sometimes align with extremists because they “will hook onto whatever is in the wind at the time they want to express their anger and frustration,“ he says.
► Iraq’s ‘Garden of Eden’ Added to Prestigious List
Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, vast and remote wetlands along the border with Iran in southern Iraq that are considered to be the biblical “Garden of Eden” have just been named a UNESCO world heritage site, the United Nations reports. Among the 12 new sites added to the list at this year’s meeting in Istanbul—which CNN reports was cut short due to the UN security protocol that went into effect following the recent coup attempt in Turkey—are the Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Brazil, the Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites in Antigua and Barbuda, and the Khangchendzonga National Park in India. The UN’s preservation list now consists of 1,052 sites notable for their “outstanding universal value,“ a prestigious list UNESCO has been adding to since 1978.
Formerly known as the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, the marshlands of Mesopotamia actually comprise seven sub-sites—four wetland marsh areas and three archaeological sites that date back to the 3rd and 4th millennium BC. In spite of the unforgivingly hot and arid climate, the marshlands boast one of the largest inland delta systems in the world, reports the BBC, and are home to bird species that include the ibis as well as spawning grounds for many Gulf fisheries. Reuters reports that after Saddam Hussein accused the region’s Marsh Arabs of treachery during the war with Iran in the 1980s, he intentionally dammed and drained the region, shrinking it from 3,500 square miles to just less than 300 square miles by 2002. Great conservation efforts have helped re-establish the area, but it is still considered to be on the brink as well as plagued by drug and weapons smuggling.
► Man Stabs Woman, Her 3 Girls at French Alps Resort
Authorities in southern France have detained a Moroccan man they said stabbed a woman and her three daughters Tuesday at an Alps resort, the AP reports. Jean-Marc Duprat, a deputy mayor for the town of Laragne-Monteglin in the Hautes-Alpes region, says the mother and her girls, aged 8, 12, and 14, were vacationing at a nearby resort when a man from a neighboring apartment attacked them Tuesday morning as they ate their breakfast. All four are expected to recover. Duprat initially said the man was upset that the girls were wearing shorts and T-shirts. He later said that did not appear to be the case and that the attacker’s motive was not known.
Raphael Balland, prosecutor for the region, said the attacker, who was on vacation with his wife and children, was brandishing a 3-inch folding knife. The youngest girl, who was the most gravely wounded, was out of danger following surgery. Laragne-Monteglin is 110 miles northwest of Nice, where a Tunisian man killed 84 people on July 14 by driving a truck through a holiday crowd on Bastille Day. The July 14 carnage has deeply upset a country still reeling from the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and a separate January 2015 Paris attack that targeted journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and Jews at a kosher supermarket.
► Strange North Korean Radio Broadcasts Raise Old Fears
Mysterious radio broadcasts out of North Korea are raising Cold War concerns in South Korea, the AP reports. A woman read a string of meaningless numbers on North Korean state radio for two minutes on June 24. It happened again last Friday; this time for 14 minutes. Popular Mechanics gives an example of what this sounded like: “On page 459, question number 35, on page 913, question number 55, on page 134…“ and so forth. The woman on the radio says the numbers are “review assignments in physics” or “practice assignments in mathematic lessons.“ But what they really sound like are the secret messages North Korea used to send to its spies in South Korea during the Cold War.
While some in South Korea believe North Korea is once again using the radio to pass missions along to its spies, experts aren’t so sure. North Korea stopped using this method in 2000 with the advent of the internet and newer, better methods of hiding messages. It would be odd for North Korea to go back to an outdated system that South Korea already knows about. Plus, broadcasting these kinds of messages immediately alerts everyone that you’re doing something shady. “If it really is espionage activity, it’s pretty old school,“ Gizmodo reports. “But I guess that’s how North Korea operates these days anyway.” But experts think it’s possible the strange numbers are just North Korea’s attempt at psychological warfare. The country is currently upset with South Korea for hosting a US missile defense system.
► 500 Elephants Are Getting Loaded Onto Trucks Via Cranes
Half a dozen African elephants lay strewn on a riverside plain in Malawi, immobilized by darts fired from a helicopter in a massive project to move 500 elephants, by truck and crane, to a sanctuary for the threatened species. As development squeezes Africa’s wildlife areas, this kind of man-made animal migration is increasingly seen as a conservation strategy in Malawi, one of the continent’s most densely populated countries, and beyond. Conservationists flipped the prostrate elephants’ large ears over their eyes to block out light, and propped open the tips of their trunks with twigs to ensure unimpeded breathing. Then the multi-ton elephants, hanging upside down from ankle straps, were loaded by crane onto trucks for a road trip of about 185 miles to a safer, more spacious area, the AP reports.
African elephants are in particular peril from human encroachment, while poachers have slaughtered them in the tens of thousands to meet demand for ivory, mostly in Asia. The Malawi elephant project differs from other wildlife relocations because of its large scale. “This is very much the way that we’ll have to manage things in the future,“ said Craig Reid, manager of Malawi’s Liwonde National Park, which is run by African Parks, a non-profit group based in Johannesburg. Reid described Liwonde as “an ecological island in a sea of humanity.“ African Parks is relocating hundreds of what it calls “surplus” elephants from Liwonde and Majete, another park, to Nkhotakota, a third reserve where poachers have virtually wiped out the elephant population. African Parks, which manages all three Malawian reserves, is moving the 500 elephants this month and next, and again next year when vehicles can maneuver on the rugged terrain during southern Africa’s dry winter. Click for more on the $1.6 million relocation.
► Flight Crew Narcs on Allegedly Drunk Pilots
Two allegedly drunk Canadian pilots were arrested Monday at Glasgow Airport just before taking to the skies with hundreds of passengers in tow, Glasgow Live reports. According to CBC, the flight crew noticed there was something off about the pilots and went to authorities. “We saw five policemen get onto the plane and we thought, ‘There’s a problem,‘“ one passenger says. The 250 or so passengers on board the Scotland-to-Canada flight were told there were “operational reasons” for the delay, the BBC reports.
Pilots Jean-Francois Perreault, 39, and Imran Zafar Syed, 37, were arrested on suspicion of violating the Railway and Transportation Safety Act of 2003. If convicted of being drunk prior to a flight, they face up to two years in prison. The airline, Air Transat, apologized and provided vouchers to passengers, who had their flight delayed until Tuesday.
► Reclusive Cleric in the Poconos Suddenly in World Spotlight
The US will soon have a dicey decision to make in regard to the failed coup in Turkey. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has formally requested that the US extradite the man it says is responsible for the uprising, moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, reports USA Today. The 77-year-old Gulen lives in small-town Pennsylvania, 5,000 miles away from Turkey, and continues to insist he had nothing to do with the coup. So who is this cleric? Some related coverage:
- NPR provides some quick basics: Gulen used to be allies with Erdogan until a falling out in 2013. Erdogan apparently suspected Gulen was behind a corruption inquiry into his government.
- The Guardian profiles Gulen’s life in tiny Saylorsburg, Pa., where he arrived in self-exile in 1999 and is seen as a friendly neighbor to the locals. He lives at a complex where his Hizmet religious movement is taught. Gulen’s followers are estimated to number between 1 million and 8 million worldwide.
- CNN says his personal living quarters “consists of little more than a bed and bookshelves.“
- He gave a rare interview to the Atlantic in 2013, expressing fears that democratic reforms in Turkey would be reversed. “I find it more tranquil here,“ he said of Pennsylvania.
- Turkish followers of Gulen are said to have created math and science charter schools around the world, including 160 that are publicly funded in the US. However, any official connection between the schools and Gulen is denied. The Washington Post takes a look.
- Education Week has more on the subject, rounding up investigations of the schools in multiple states. Critics, for example, have objected to the near-exclusive hiring of Turkish educators, even though the schools get public money.
► This Jungle Is Notoriously Dangerous. Why People Enter It Anyway
The Pan-American Highway runs about 19,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina and manages to connect the Americas in remarkable fashion though a network of roads. Well, almost: Even this highway can’t penetrate the Darien Gap, a dangerous stretch of rainforest on the border of Panama and Colombia. As Jason Motlagh writes at Outside, it’s dangerous for any number of reasons: poisonous snakes, bandits, paramilitary groups, drug smugglers, a dearth of fresh water, you name it. Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, the Gap has in recent years become a major draw for migrants from all over the world looking to get into the US. One typical path: They fly into Brazil or Ecuador because of lax visa rules, then start the long journey north, often in the company of human smugglers. The Gap is by far the most arduous part.
“The entire expanse, a roadless maze that travelers usually negotiate on foot and in boats, is dominated by narco traffickers and Cuba-backed guerrillas who’ve been waging war on the government of Colombia since 1964,“ writes Motlagh. “Hundreds of migrants enter each year; many never emerge, killed or abandoned by coyotes (migrant smugglers) on ghost trails.“ Motlagh doesn’t just write about the Gap, however. He and a photographer and videographer actually cross it themselves, by foot and by boat, after gaining the trust of Marxist FARC rebels who control a 50-mile north-south route. Along the way, they meet Nepalis, Bangladeshis, even one man from Afghanistan hoping to ultimately reach Las Vegas. Click to read the full, harrowing story HERE .
► 25-Year-Old Airman Found Dead in Her Room in UAE
An Air Force lieutenant who was sent to the United Arab Emirates to help take on the Islamic State has died at the age of 25, the Miami Herald reports. The Air Force Times IDs her as 1st Lt. Anais A. Tobar, per a Department of Defense press release, which notes she died on Monday of a “non-combat-related injury.“ The release didn’t indicate either the cause of death nor where in the UAE it took place; an Air Force spokesperson says her body was found in her room. Tobar was assigned to the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at North Carolina’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and had been deployed in Abu Dhabi to help out with Operation Inherent Resolve, which leads targeted operations against ISIS.
Tobar was born in Venezuela and grew up in Florida, spending much of her youth in Miami and attending Osceola High School in Kissimmee before heading off to Florida State University. After a stint in the Air Force Reserve in high school, Tobar fully enlisted in the Air Force to “see the world,“ family friend Mercy McGee tells the Orlando Sentinel, adding to the Herald, “There are not enough words to tell you what a loving and wonderful girl she was. She was God-fearing, deeply devoted to serving others and her country.“ Officials told Tobar’s family an autopsy would be done once Tobar’s body was brought back to the US, McGee notes.
WVU Extension Grants Seek Gilmer County Organizations Interested In Promoting Healthier Communities
The West Virginia University Extension Service will help organizations in Gilmer County support healthier environments in their communities with grants offered through the West Virginia Healthy Children Project.
Earlier this year, eight organizations in three West Virginia counties were awarded funding. Competitive one-time mini-grants will be offered once again to organizations that wish to promote healthy environments and impactful educational activities for young children (ages 2 to 5) and families in Barbour, Gilmer and Pleasants counties. Grants are funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention through the WVU Extension Service’s West Virginia Healthy Children Project.
The deadline to apply is Monday, August 01. Organizations may receive funding ranging from $500 to $4,000. Projects must be completed between October 2016 and September 2017. Previous county projects include walking trails, playground enhancements, water fountains, healthy lifestyle events and other community improvements.
According to WVU Extension Health Promotion Specialist Dr. Elaine Bowen, organizations interested in applying can choose creative new ideas, or to partner with past grant recipients to enhance project effectiveness, and leverage resources and community collaboration. “Whether it’s an extension of a walking trail or another project, it’s a great way to build off of a completed initiative and reap the benefits of a true community partnership,” said Bowen. Only one application per organization is permitted. They will be prioritized and funded based on the availability of funds. Projects that show community collaboration, creativity and sustainability will be given priority. The total number of funded projects will depend on the requested amounts and the strengths of the proposals. Applicants interested in applying for a grant or partnering with previous recipients should contact their local WVU Extension Service office, which can be found online at bit.ly/ExtCountyOffices. Completed applications must be emailed by the deadline, and they must comply with all guidelines and procedures.
Organizations in Gilmer County that are interested in applying, partnering or looking for suggestions for local improvement should contact WVU Extension Service Gilmer County agent Lisa Montgomery at
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
What A Waste!
Research Suggests the U.S. Discards Half of Its Fresh Produce
Around $160 billion of perfectly edible produce is discarded because it’s less than perfect
Here’s a shocking statistic: According to a recent report in the Guardian, new research suggests American retailers and consumers waste one-third of all foodstuffs. In total this represents around $160 billion of perfectly edible produce that’s thrown away annually due to what the report labels a “cult of perfection.”
A common assertion is that this problem is a result of supply chain issues. While it’s true some produce goes bad somewhere in between the fields, warehouses and supermarket fridges, this by no means accounts for the exorbitant disparity that exists.
The Guardian’s U.S. environmental correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg interviewed over two dozen “farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners” to find out what exactly is going wrong. Goldenberg found that much of the produce is wasted due to “cosmetic standards.” In other words, perfectly fresh food is being discarded because it doesn’t look good.
Jay Johnson, a fresh fruit and vegetable supplier to North Carolina and central Florida explained to Goldenberg, “it is either perfect, or it gets rejected.“ As a result, many farmers preemptively get rid of much of their produce to save on wasted transport costs.
Potato farmer Wayde Kirschenman from Bakersfield, Calif. confirmed as much in his interview with Goldenberg. “I would say at times there is 25 percent of the crop that is just thrown away or fed to cattle. Sometimes it can be worse.”
So why exactly is this happening?
According to Goldenberg, researchers still don’t have an exact reason. She notes that the World Resources Institute think tank is working toward an answer. Which is good, as the need to find answers is pressing. As Goldenberg notes:
“Food experts say there is growing awareness that governments cannot effectively fight hunger, or climate change, without reducing food waste. Food waste accounts for about 8 percent of global climate pollution, more than India or Russia.“
As for America, the EPA has found that discarded food is the biggest single component of landfills and incinerators in the country. As a result these landfills produce massive amounts of methane, which proves far more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Roger Gordon is founder of the startup Food Cowboy, which aims to address issues around food waste in America. According to Gordon, much of the problem around produce waste comes down to the issue of supermarket profit.
“If you and I reduced fresh produce waste by 50 percent like [U.S. agriculture secretary] Vilsack wants us to do, then supermarkets would go from [a] 1.5 percent profit margin to 0.7 percent,” Gordon told Goldenberg. “And if we were to lose 50 percent of consumer waste, then we would lose about $250 billion in economic activity that would go away.”
So this is an issue of creating scarcity? Bizarrely, as Goldenberg continued, this may well be the case.
The farmers and truckers interviewed said they had seen their produce rejected on flimsy grounds, but decided against challenging the ruling with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dispute mechanism for fear of being boycotted by powerful supermarket giants. They also asked that their names not be used.
In other words, rather than the consumers, it’s the large supermarkets that are dictating the impossible standards that get implemented on the supply chain. As for the legal issues surrounding this dubious practice, one unnamed owner of an East Coast trucking company told Goldenberg that even if farmers want to challenge a supermarket they have very little recourse.
“There is nothing you can do,” said the owner, “because if you use the PACA [Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930] on them, they are never going to buy from you again. Are you going to jeopardize $5 million in sales over an $8,000 load?”
As a result of this practice by the powerful retailers, the issues carry down the ladder of the supply chain to the farmer. In the end a feedback loop is created where the consumers only want to consume what they’re told they should accept as the standard. And in the process, almost half of all edible produce being farmed in the country is going uneaten.
College Counseling Through Text Messaging
College Foundation of West Virginia sees promising early results
in providing college Counseling Through Text Messaging
Charleston, WV – During a meeting of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission held today, state officials announced that a pilot project to provide college counseling through text messaging is yielding encouraging results. The project, which is part of the Commission’s statewide College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) outreach initiative, provides students with a series of text message reminders to help them succeed in college. Students can text back anytime to receive free assistance from a counselor.
Dr. Ben Castleman and Katharine Meyer, researchers from the University of Virginia, recently released a working paper outlining early results from the effort. Their analysis indicates that students from the high school class of 2014 who received the text reminders attempted a higher number of course credits and completed more credits and courses during their first year of college.
“The text messaging project is showing great promise as an innovative and low-cost method for boosting course enrollment and college retention rates,” Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission, said. “As we strive to meet our goal of doubling the number of degrees we produce by 2025, we will look to creative strategies like this to ensure that more of our students graduate on time.”
Although the analysts cautioned that limitations within the research design prevent them from assigning the text messages as the definite cause for student gains, they noted that they were able to rule out other common factors such as students’ high school grade point averages, family income, and college entrance exam scores.
Dr. Castleman, who has pioneered much of the research in using text messages to improve educational outcomes, said the study breaks new ground.
“To my knowledge, this paper provides the first suggestive evidence that low-touch interventions, including text-messaging, conducted through students’ first year of college can lead to improvements in students’ academic performance in college,” Dr. Castleman said. “We look forward to further examining CFWV’s work in this arena and are hopeful that additional positive trends will continue to emerge.”
This October, CFWV will begin its fourth text messaging campaign. Funding for the service is provided through a grant from the Kresge Foundation a private philanthropic organization headquartered in Michigan. Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Marshall University, Shepherd University, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, West Virginia Northern Community College and West Virginia State University are partners in the project.
Messages guide students through the processes of applying for financial aid, registering and preparing for college and connecting with resources and advisors once they arrive on campus. Any student who is planning to attend college for the first-time in the fall of 2017 can sign up to receive the alerts by visiting the state’s free college-planning resource, www.cfwv.com.
WV Colleges’ Financial Crisis
WV colleges don’t have much cash on hand
The commission that oversees West Virginia’s four-year colleges breezed through its agenda Monday morning, reauthorizing every school up for review, approving every school’s budget and approving a handful of requests for tuition increases.
But during Monday’s meeting at BridgeValley Community and Technical College, staff members of the Higher Education Policy Commission warned that, by at least one indicator of a school’s financial strength, many schools appear to be weakening.
Several schools had less than two months of cash on hand at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Ed Magee, the commission’s vice chancellor for finance, said schools should have at least two months of cash on hand, at minimum, but a healthy institution would have upward of half a year.
“I think the institutions need to have reserves to deal with the circumstances that are happening in higher education regarding the appropriation reductions,” Magee said. So if a school would have to undergo another mid-year cut to its appropriations, like all state agencies had to do in 2015, they wouldn’t be caught shorthanded.
This year, for the first time, the commission required schools to submit snapshots of how much cash they had on hand on April 30 and June 30 in the previous fiscal year (2015), compared to how much cash they had on hand on April 30 of this year and how much cash they’d projected to have by the end of June.
Glenville State College projected to have only 13 days of cash on hand, as of June 30, the lowest of all the schools under the commission’s watch. This was a small decline from when the school had 21 days of cash on hand for the same day in 2015.
Administrators at Glenville State have started trying to shore up their savings. With a 2 percent increase in revenue and an 11 percent slash to the school’s salaries and wages, Glenville State should end this fiscal year with 4 percent more than it did last year.
Representatives from Glenville State were unavailable for comment Monday because the people who are familiar with the details of the school’s finances were on vacation, according to Dustin Crutchfield, a spokesman for the school.
A recent move to refinance some of Glenville State’s bonds for lower rates will help the school’s overall financial outlook, the HEPC staff said.
Bluefield State College’s cash on hand was the second lowest, with only a projected 14 days of reserve.
Jim Nelson, spokesman for the school, said Bluefield State actually came in a little better than the projection, ending the year with about 17 days of cash on hand.
Nelson said his school expected to see dips in its cash reserve near the end of June, since the school relies heavily on tuition money, and only a relatively low number of students take summer classes there.
Still, a school with a healthy financial outlook would have at least two months of cash on reserve even when tuition dollars aren’t rolling in.
Magee said the HEPC also is concerned about Concord University and West Virginia State University, which projected to end June with 43 and 28 days of cash on hand, respectively.
Other schools, like Shepherd University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, which projected 127 and 211 days of cash on hand, respectively, are less of a concern because they surpass the commission’s suggested minimums.
Unlike the meeting Friday where five community colleges asked their own oversight board for large tuition increases, West Liberty University was the only school to ask HEPC commissioners for an increase. The commission approved its request for a 12.2 percent tuition increase for in-state students enrolled in WLU’s nursing program, a 9.1 tuition increase for in-state students enrolled in its College of Science (excluding the nursing and dental hygiene program) and a 13 percent increase for its RN to BSN nursing program.
“Because we have moved some fees into the tuition number, our tuition increase for next year may appear larger than it is for some programs,” said Stephen Greiner, WLU’s president, in a prepared statement. He went on to say that, “by rearranging the fees, our tuition number is more inclusive. This is important to our students as they plan and budget for college.”
Also Monday, the commission unanimously approved Gordon Gee’s contract to remain as West Virginia University’s president for five years. WVU’s Board of Governors, in late May, recommended the contract, citing Gee’s energetic presence on campus and his work to increase enrollment numbers.
The details of the contract were not released because it had not been fully executed, according to John Bolt, a WVU spokesman. The contract still needed to be signed by HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill and Gee, whom Bolt said was not in town Monday.
The commission also approved Pete Barr’s contract to be Glenville State’s president. The details of that contract also were not made available Monday.
~~ Jake Jarvis ~~
DHHR Announces First Confirmed Case of Zika Virus in a Pregnant Woman
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health is reporting the state’s first case of Zika virus occurring in a pregnant woman, bringing the total of confirmed Zika virus cases in West Virginia to eight. All eight cases were contracted by travel to countries where the virus is active.
“The woman was confirmed to be positive for Zika virus following an international mission trip to an area where the disease is endemic,” said State Health Officer and Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health Dr. Rahul Gupta. “The pregnancy will now be monitored by the Bureau for Public Health’s Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health through the U.S. Zika Pregnancy registry due to the increased risk of microcephaly and other potential birth defects.”
The Bureau for Public Health is not releasing additional information pertaining to this case to protect the privacy of the patient.
“During pregnancy, the Zika virus may be passed from the mother to her fetus,” said Gupta. “It is very important to remember to take mosquito bite precautions if traveling to areas where Zika virus transmission is occurring.”
CDC has issued guidance to men and women surrounding pregnancy precautions following a visit to countries where Zika virus is endemic. Upon return, women who want to become pregnant are encouraged to wait a minimum of 8 weeks, while men should consider using a condom from 8 weeks to 6 months. There have been no reports of local mosquito transmission of the disease in the United States at this time.
DHHR has launched a Zika webpage, zikawv.org, where residents can easily access Zika information, how to prevent the disease, and to help explain the risks of the virus to pregnant women and their unborn children. Gupta convened the West Virginia Zika Task Force, consisting of multiple state agencies in March 2016 to begin preparedness efforts relating to Zika virus. Many states across the country are in the process of filing action plans with CDC as local transmission of the disease is a possibility.
Zika virus cases in the U.S. have been linked to foreign travel. In about 80% of cases, the Zika virus causes no symptoms and in the rest, it causes only mild illness with symptoms lasting from a few days to a week. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
To learn more about Zika virus or risks to pregnant women, please visit www.zikawv.org.
Did You Know?
TRUMP SECURES GOP NOMINATION FOR PRESIDENT
A roll call vote at the party convention makes official something the political establishment once deemed impossible.
MELANIA’S MOMENT MARRED BY PLAGIARISM CLAIM
A defiant Trump campaign slaps away criticism as questions swirl about how part of his wife’s speech happened to mirror nearly word-for-word Michelle Obama’s in 2008.
TURMOIL UNSETTLES TOP RANKS AT FOX
Roger Ailes’ attorney denies allegations that the Fox News Network chief sexually harassed star anchor Megyn Kelly.
ERDOGAN GOVERNMENT ESCALATES CRACKDOWN
Tens of thousands of public employees across Turkey are fired in a purge of people the government claims have ties to plotters of last week’s attempted coup.
WHAT’S RESULT OF BLOODY ATTACK IN FRANCE
Fears of copycat assaults are gripping many in Europe after the truck rampage that killed dozens on a Nice beachfront.
TICKET SALES LAG AS OLYMPICS APPROACH
In an effort to boost sales, fans outside Brazil are being offered tickets at local rates in Brazilian reals - meaning bargains can be had.
WHY GERMAN AUTHORITIES FEEL INHIBITED IN WAKE OF SLASHINGS ON TRAIN
While calling for increased security measures, they concede that preventing attacks from lone-wolf suspects is next to impossible.
HOW SHOOTINGS HAVE REMADE BATON ROUGE’S CITYSCAPE
The Louisiana capital is now a town marked by memorials - flowers, balloons and stuffed animals with notes of condolences.
WOMEN ACROSS RUSSIA, UKRAINE FIND COMMON GROUND
A Ukrainian journalist’s Facebook post prompts hundreds of women in Ukraine and Russia to put aside their fears and share stories of sexual violence and harassment.
TIGER WOODS WITHDRAWS FROM PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
It’s the first time in his career that Woods, who’s rehabbing from back surgery, will miss all four majors in a year.
In West Virginia….
► Governor Tomblin, Senator Manchin Launch Uber Services in West Virginia
CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin today took the first Uber ride in West Virginia – from the Capitol Market to the State Capitol to announce the official launch of Uber services in the state. They were joined by Tom Hayes, Uber General Manager for West Virginia.
“With bipartisan support from both the House of Delegates and Senate earlier this year, we were able to enact legislation that paved the way for Uber to come to West Virginia, and for the very first ride in our state today,” said Governor Tomblin. “By bringing companies like Uber to our state, we are spurring economic growth, new jobs, enhanced tourism opportunities and valuable services for West Virginians.”
“I am excited to welcome Uber to West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “Uber is part of our rapidly changing economy and I’m pleased to see the investment Uber has made in West Virginia. As Governor, and now as United States Senator, I have always been committed to enhancing our job climate so West Virginians have good paying jobs. I thank Uber for pursuing this wonderful business venture in West Virginia and recognizing our state’s aptitude for economic growth and prosperity.”
“We’re excited to bring safe, reliable transportation options at the touch of a button and flexible work opportunities to West Virginia communities starting this afternoon,” said General Manager for Uber in West Virginia Tom Hayes. “I want to personally thank Governor Tomblin and Senator Manchin for their support, as well as policymakers in the West Virginia Legislature for their leadership developing a sensible, modern regulatory framework for ridesharing in the state.”
West Virginia’s new ridesharing law establishes a comprehensive, statewide regulatory framework consistent with the modern ridesharing laws passed in more than 30 states across the country. Initially available in Charleston and Morgantown, Uber plans to expand to other West Virginia communities in the near future as operations grow in the state. Uber is now available in 450 cities around the world in more than 70 countries.
► Governor Tomblin Highlights West Virginia’s Substance Abuse Efforts at National Governors Association Meeting
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday participated in a special plenary session, “Governors Unite Against the Opioid Crisis,” and joined with 45 other governors to unveil the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Opioid Compact at the association’s summer meeting. The compact shares best practices and outlines a multifaceted and coordinated approach for combatting opioid use across the nation.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and West Virginia native Sylvia Mathews Burwell spoke at the special plenary session where Governor Tomblin shared information on the HELP4WV initiative to showcase West Virginia’s commitment to combatting substance abuse and helping individuals connect to addiction treatment services. To date, more than 1,700 intake calls have been received through the toll-free hotline, 1.844.HELP4WV.
“I’m proud that West Virginia has become a national leader in our country’s efforts to combat substance abuse,” said Governor Tomblin. “And I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share our story with governors from across the nation.”
Since 2011, Governor Tomblin’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse (GACSA) has established regional task forces and enacted legislation to shut down pill mills and provided more than $29 million to enhance treatment services across the state. From a community-focused approach, GACSA has accumulated more accurate information to help shape critical policy recommendations for legislative and administrative reform.
Funded by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the HELP4WV initiative streamlines help for behavioral health issues through confidential support and resource referrals, including self-help groups, outpatient counseling, medication-assisted treatment, psychiatric care, emergency care and residential treatment. Resource referrals are based on callers’ locations to provide the nearest help. Community-based treatment and recovery services have nearly doubled since 2013 as a result.
The HELP4WV hotline is provided through First Choice Services and provides immediate assistance for any West Virginian struggling with an addiction or mental health issue. Most phone calls are answered by peer-support specialists or recovery coaches who have personal experience in recovery.
In addition to those who need help themselves, HELP4WV provides guidance for those seeking help for loved ones and serves as a resource for social workers, medical professionals and others involved in care planning. For more information, visit HELP4WV.com.
To read the Opioid Compact in its entirety, click HERE.
► WVBE President Issues Statement on Boone County
CHARLESTON, WV – West Virginia Board of Education President Mike Green today issued a statement following action taken by the Boone County Board of Education regarding its FY17 budget:
“The action taken today by the Boone County Board of Education to approve a sufficient budget for fiscal year 2017 has averted an intervention by the State Board of Education. The budget has been reviewed by the Office of School Finance and been deemed accurate and fiscally sufficient. The budget approved today upholds Boone County Board’s responsibility to ensure a full instructional term for students and ensures sufficient funds to pay employees for the entire school year.
“I commend the Boone County Board of Education and its Superintendent, Jeff Huffman, for making extremely difficult decisions that were caused, in large part, by factors beyond its control. The Board’s action preserved its right to maintain local control and move forward as they see best for their county.
“I empathize with the employees of Boone County who must bear the burden of this unprecedented financial distress. They are not to blame for the situation that necessitated these difficult actions by the Boone County Board of Education. The West Virginia Board of Education is committed to supporting Boone County to help address budget issues. We remain hopeful this situation will be temporary and benefits can be restored.“
► Teacher in School Hostage Situation to Speak at Conference
A Barbour County teacher who helped keep students safe when a boy held a high school class hostage is set to speak at a conference.
Phillip Barbour High School teacher Twila Smith will be among the presenters Tuesday at the West Virginia Center for Professional Development’s Safe Schools Summit. It will be held at the Charleston Marriott Hotel.
Last August, a 14-year-old freshman took Smith’s class hostage at gunpoint. Smith tried to keep him and the other students calm. A teacher from another classroom alerted school administrators.
Police and the boy’s pastor ultimately talked him into giving up without harming himself or others.
► Two Barbour County schools to close following 2016-17 school year
PHILIPPI, WV — Despite protests from parents, the Barbour County Board of Education accepted a recommendation from Superintendent Jeff Woofter to close two elementary schools in Barbour County Monday evening.
“Mt. Vernon and Volga combined have about four percent of our student population,” Woofter said. “And, unfortunately, due to the low enrollment and our funding, we had to have combined grades at both of those schools, which isn’t in the best interest of kids.”
Mt. Vernon ended the year with 57 students. Volga-Century had 37 students. Those numbers were expected to decrease again down from 94 students between the two schools to 88 students.
The move to close Mt. Vernon Elementary School and Volga-Century Elementary School will save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Woofter said the move had far more to do with academics.
“We believe financially it’ll be at least $390,000 per year, but the financial consideration wasn’t the main consideration in this case,” Woofter said.
Classrooms were combined for first and second grade students and third and fourth grade students at the schools.
“We’re trying to get twice the content in half the time, and basically we’re just cheating kids when we do that,” Woofter said. “Unfortunately, students that are not on grade level by third grade, research tells us–chances are–they”ll never catch up.”
The Board of Education also voted to amend their Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan, which will allow those students to move to Philippi Elementary School.
“Philippi Elementary is right between Volga-Century and Mt. Vernon,” he said. “Each of those schools will be going about the equal distance.”
Both schools will remain open for the 2016-17 school year, closing upon conclusion of the school calendar year.
► Martirano commends Boone school board for passing pay cuts
MADISON, WV — State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano says he has faith Boone County teachers will continue to provide quality instruction even with salary cuts that were approved by the county’s Board of Education.
“I expect no one — none of our teachers will have any kind of repercussions to our children and provide them anything less than a quality education,” Martirano said in response to the board’s Monday vote to pass a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017.
The budget plan includes a $3,800 to $4,000 salary cut for all Boone teachers and school administrators and a $3,650 to $3,850 salary cut per service employee, including custodians and bus drivers. That means teachers in the school district will see about a $175 cut per paycheck as well as the elimination of dental and vision benefits.
“I know there’s going to be people who are very hurt today, but I’ve also heard individuals who’ve talked to me about the fact that they’re very happy the fact that they still have a job,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Martirano said the board had no choice but to approve the cuts in order to maintain local control. The state Department of Education had threatened to takeover the Boone County school system if the cuts were not approved.
“I think it really came down to the level of looking at this with a clear set of objectivity in saying this has to occur. We have to do it. We know it’s painful, but the bottom line is we don’t want to be taken over by the state,” he said.
Maintaining local control is important, Martirano said.
“Why would a school board want to give up that control and turn all that authority over to the state? Because it would remove an incredible amount of authority,” he said.
Teacher organizations, such as the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Education Association, are fighting the situation by claiming the cuts aren’t legal and that teacher contracts should not be changed. Martirano said he predicts they could end up in a legal battle, but that they have been clear about what needs to be done in order to meet the 180 instructional day requirement by law.
“The reality is those possibilities could exist,” he said. “When you cannot provide 180 days of instruction and 200 days of employment, the statute is very clear in terms of what it says about actions that need to be taken.”
Martirano said they had been working with Boone County Schools the last several months to make sure they didn’t run out of money.
“The state board was committed to taking them over which would would’ve placed them under the authority of my leadership to go in and do the same cuts,” he said. “The reality came down to this is going to happen regardless.”
The original Boone school budget was about $7 million short, according to Martirano, and would run out of money next spring.
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