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The Free Press WV

GCHS Honor Band Students

Five Gilmer County High School students were selected for the WV Wesleyan Honor Band program held February 03-04, 2017. 

Under the supervision of band director Jennifer Sager, GCHS was represented by:

The Free Press WV

(L-R) Caleigh Cawthon, daughter of Jennifer Parsons of Normantown

Naomy Brodeur, daughter of Brook and David Finley of Glenville

Logan and Morgan Bossert, daughters of James and Hope Bossert of Glenville

Hannah Sanders, daughter of Leon and Stacey Butler of Glenville.

West Virginia Department of Education Office of Adult Education Announces Request for Proposals

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Adult Education announced funding opportunities today for Adult Education programs and Integrated English Language and Civics Education programs in accordance with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Title II, Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) for fiscal year 2018 (July 01, 2017 – June 30, 2018). Application forms and guidance information will be available for download on the West Virginia Adult Education website at wvde.state.wv.us/abe/ beginning February 13, 2017.

Applications will be accepted by mail or email. Applications mailed must be postmarked April 07, 2017 and applications emailed must be received by 4:00 pm on April 07, 2017 Eastern Time/1:00pm Pacific Time /2:00pm Mountain Time/3:00pm Central Time.

Eligible providers must be a local educational agency, community-based organization or faith-based organization, volunteer literacy organization, an institution of higher education, public or private nonprofit agency, library, public housing authority, nonprofit institution that is not previously described and have the ability to provide adult education and literacy activities to eligible individuals, consortium or coalition of the agencies, organizations, institutions, or libraries as described above, or a partnership between an employer and an entity described in any of items above.

A technical assistance webinar will be held on March 07, 2017. Potential applicants will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the application. Questions may also be submitted to . All questions and responses will be available in the FAQ section on the website.

The purpose of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is to provide adults with education opportunities to acquire and improve their literacy skills necessary to become self-sufficient and to participate effectively as productive workers, family members, and citizens.

DHHR Launches Statewide Naloxone Distribution Project to Fight Opioid Overdose Deaths in WV

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced the first statewide naloxone distribution project aimed at preventing opioid overdose deaths and increasing access to the medication.

“Naloxone is a lifesaving antidote that, if administered in a timely manner, can effectively reverse respiratory depression caused by opioid and opiate overdose and revive victims,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health.  “This collaboration represents an essential step toward turning around West Virginia’s staggering overdose statistics.”

The state-level naloxone distribution project is a partnership of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) and Bureau for Public Health (BPH).  It is predominantly funded through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment $1.07 million block grant managed by the BBHHF, and is being administered by the BPH as part of its statewide harm reduction efforts.  The project will be jointly overseen by the BPH and the BBHHF to focus on reduction in the number of overdose deaths.

“The partnership forged between the bureaus to move this project forward marks the first concerted, statewide effort to make this medication more widely available to all who can potentially save a life,” said Kimberly Walsh, BBHHF Deputy Commissioner.  “This initiative will significantly enhance the state’s ability to ensure that non-EMS first responders, as well as others with existing programs or those who have interest in establishing programs, have access to naloxone.”

DHHR has contracted with the West Virginia University Injury Control Research Center (WVU ICRC) to implement and evaluate the program through a census of existing naloxone programs.

The WVU ICRC will use the data collected from its recent survey to compile a priority list of programs for the naloxone distribution.  Priority is based on the organization’s risk level (calculated from number and rate of overdose deaths in the county where the program is located) and estimated number of naloxone doses needed (based on survey responses).

The WVU ICRC has acquired more than 16,000 doses of medication, which will enable the distribution of more than 8,000, two-dose naloxone rescue kits to new and existing programs across the state.

Mountain Valley Pipeline Public Hearing Notice

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Water and Waste Management will hold public hearings regarding the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project for State 401 Water Quality Certification, Natural Streams Preservation Act Permit, and for Oil and Gas General Water Pollution Control Permit. Oral and written comments will be accepted at each hearing. The hearings will start at 6:00PM at the following locations:

For Natural Streams Preservation Act Permit, State 401 Water Quality Certification, and Oil and Gas General Water Pollution Control Permit:

• Summers County at Summers Memorial Building (451 1st Ave in Hinton) on Tuesday March 07, 2017. 

For State 401 Water Quality Certification and Oil and Gas General Water Pollution Control Permit:

• Webster County at Webster County High School auditorium on Monday March 6, 2017.

• Harrison County at Robert C. Byrd High School Large Group Instruction Room on Thursday March 09, 2017.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is comprised of approximately 195 miles of natural gas pipeline along with compressor stations, meter stations, access roads, and interconnects through: Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe Counties in West Virginia. The associated Oil & Gas Construction Stormwater General Permit (WVR310667) would be for the discharge of stormwater associated with the disturbance of 4,214 acres of land for the of construction of this project. The Natural Streams Preservation Act permit (NSP-17-0001) being sought is for a proposed crossing of Greenbrier River in Summers County near Pence Springs. The State 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC-16-0005) would be for activities that will or may discharge fill into waters of the State. Mountain Valley Pipeline project is proposing to mitigate for the streams and wetlands permanently impacted by this project.

Any interested person may submit written comments on the Oil & Gas Construction Stormwater General Permit, the Natural Streams Preservation Act Permit, and/or the State 401 Water Quality Certification by addressing such to the Director of the Division of Water and Waste Management during the comment period, which begins with this notice and ends on March 19, 2017 at 8PM. Comments or requests should be emailed to or by mail addressed to:

Director, Division of Water and Management, DEP

ATTN: Sharon Mullins, Permitting Section

601 57th Street SE

Charleston, WV 25304-2345

Applicant Type Permit ID

Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC Oil & Gas Construction Stormwater General Permit WVR310667

Mountain Valley Pipeline, INC. State 401 Water Quality Certification WQC-16-0005

Mountain Valley Pipeline, INC. Natural Streams Preservation Act Permit NSP-17-0001

Additional Information

State 401 Water Quality Certification application (WQC-16-0005) (This is a large PDF file, which may take a moment to download and view)

Natural Streams Preservation Act permit application (NSP-17-0001) (This is a large PDF file, which may take a moment to download and view)

Oil & Gas Construction Stormwater General Permit (WVR310667)

Instructions for navigating the Oil and Gas Construction Stormwater General Permit webpages

Mountain Valley Pipeline Information Page

ETC.

The Free Press WV

  • Sticks and stones.  Why calling someone a “so-called judge” is different from from criticizing the substance of his opinions.  The Washington Post


  • Bluegrass buffoonery.   Not only was there no Bowling Green terror attack but the plot the FBI did foil was one its agents created.  Reason


  • Trump’s State Department is in a “cone of silence” due to lack of staff:  “For the third consecutive week, State Department press briefings normally held every workday haven’t been scheduled, no chief of staff has been named and many of the most senior posts at the department remain vacant. By this time in the Obama administration, the State Department had given 11 daily briefings. ... Even when he hires a deputy, Tillerson will face a backlog of more than 200 jobs requiring Senate approval in the coming months. Many of those are ambassadorships, and the key for Tillerson will be the 20 to 30 undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who help carry out day-to-day policies on specific issues or regions of the world.”  BLOOMBERG


  • Rand Paul, who could be the deciding vote on the Foreign Relations committee, comes out swinging against Elliott Abrams to be deputy secretary of state.  “I hope against hope that the rumors are wrong … Crack the door to admit Elliott Abrams, and the neocons will scurry in by the hundreds. Neoconservative interventionists have had us at perpetual war for 25 years. While President Trump has repeatedly stated his belief that the Iraq War was a mistake, the neocons (all of them Never-Trumpers) continue to maintain that the Iraq and Libyan Wars were brilliant ideas…    RARE


  • Trump keeps talking about the threat from the U.S.-Mexico border. But he may be looking in the wrong direction: FBI reports show that far more suspected terrorists try to enter the country from the northern border with Canada than from the south:  “Seven FBI Terrorist Screening Center ‘monthly domestic encounter reports’ dating from April 2014 to August 2016 detail the number, type, and location of encounters with known or suspected terrorists across the United States. In all seven reports, the numbers of encounters at land border crossings were higher in northern states than southern. ‘We are looking the wrong direction,’ said a senior DHS official familiar with the data. ‘Not to say that Mexico isn’t a problem, but the real bad guys aren’t coming from there—at least not yet.’”    DALIY BEAST


  • The real significance of Trump’s refusal to condemn Putin as a killer has little to do with Russia:  “In fact, it’s hard to say Putin is a killer. Rather, he has created an atmosphere in which his minions … can kill with impunity. Even when tens of thousands of people protested against him … he didn’t respond with mass arrests and purges. He sent a few dozen people to jail, not for 25 years, but for two or three. The government picked sample protestors from each social group—an anarchist, a pensioner, a young liberal—because the point was not so much to punish specific individuals but to send a clear, targeted message about the costs of going against him. By American standards, Putin may be a killer, but by Russian standards, he is downright moderate in how he dispatches with his enemies.” But the far more troubling point, Julia says, is that the man now in charge of the U.S. “seems to believe that being a killer is a good thing.” She warns that Trump too has created an atmosphere of hostility against journalists that could spill into something real and bloody.  THE ATLANTIC


In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►  4 West Virginia scientists to discuss impacts of research

Four scientists from state colleges and universities plan to discuss the economic and community impact of research programs at a forum at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.

The Tuesday event by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research features scientists from Concord, Marshall, West Virginia and West Virginia State universities.

Concord geology professor Joe Allen has researched earthquakes in deep fault zones.

WVU chemical engineering professor Brian Anderson studies development of sustainable energy systems.

Professor Sanjaya, director of West Virginia State’s Energy and Environmental Science Institute, researches the innovative use of plants to clean up the environment and ways to enhance their bioenergy and nutritional value.

Professor Nadja Spitzer of Marshall has received a National Science Foundation award for her research into exposure to silver nanoparticles and how it could be affecting the brains of children and adults.


►  Lewis County Commission to Consider Support for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Dominion Resources representatives told Lewis County commissioners January 30 that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have a significant economic impact on Lewis County, bringing $3.7 million in property taxes in 2022.

The partnership between Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas will move abundant supplies of natural gas in West Virginia to Virginia and the Carolinas, Dominion’s Bob Orndorff said.

“Lewis County will have one of the three compressor stations, located in Kincheloe, along with 20 miles of pipeline and possibly a (pipe)yard,” Orndorff said. “Estimated 2022 property tax payments are estimated at $3.7 million for the county.”

Orndorff and Ben Hardesty of Alta Energy asked for the commission’s support for the project, as well as the draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is out for public review.

The commission will review the documents, which were not available, and make a decision at a later date.

Hardesty stated that all natural gas liquids will be extracted before it goes into the pipeline.

“We are hopeful there will be long-term economic development impact with the natural gas liquids that could impact the local glass industry,” Hardesty said.

Construction is set to begin late this year, and the pipeline could be in service by late 2019.


►  DeVos confirmed; WVEA leader says it’s now wait and see

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could have an immediate impact on public schools in West Virginia.

DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Tuesday on a 51-50 vote. Mike Pence broke the tie after a 24-hour talk-athon by senators against DeVos, the charter school advocate.

Lee said DeVos’ impact could begin soon.

“She can have serious consequences in West Virginia because we are such a rural state and we rely a lot on the federal funding,” he said. “Anybody who wants to take that funding away and use it for vouchers, private schools, charter schools, home schools, could be a detriment to West Virginia.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who voted in favor of DeVos, released a statement Tuesday that said she believed DeVos would “work hard to improve education for all students across West Virginia and the nation.”

Capito added she doesn’t believe the school voucher system will be forced on states.

“Mrs. DeVos has also provided assurances that she will not impose a school choice or voucher program on any state or school district, sharing my belief that such a mandate should not be required by the federal government,” Capito’s statement said.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who voted against DeVos, continued to criticize her lack of public school experience in a statement released after Tuesday’s vote.

“We need an education secretary that understands the challenges that students, teachers, and schools in rural areas face. Betsy DeVos has spent her career working to privatize public schools, not investing in and improving them. The policies that she supports would divert already very limited public funds to private schools, reduce accountability from those schools, and significantly harm the public school system in a rural state like West Virginia,” Manchin said.

Lee is hopeful DeVos will turn to experts in the Department of Education for guidance.

“But it’s a wait and see. We’ll have to see what her agenda is going to be and how it will affect West Virginia,” Lee said.


►  Order expands required C8 testing area

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an order expanding the area for required testing of water wells for the chemical C8.

C8 was used for years to manufacture Teflon at a Wood County DuPont plant. A science panel has since discovered a link between C8 and illnesses, including certain cancers.

A 2009 EPA order set a geographic area in which DuPont had to test for the chemical in water and acceptable levels of C8. The amended order, released in January, adds DuPont spinoff Chemours to the order. It also lowers the C8 level that requires the water to be filtered from 0.4 parts per billion to 0.07 ppb.

The expanded area includes public water supplies in Parkersburg, Williamstown and Marietta, Ohio.


►  West Virginia woman charged with animal cruelty

A Kanawha County woman has been charged after a humane officer reported finding that more than four dozen animals did not have food, water, shelter and adequate medical treatment.

Media outlets report a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court charged 25-year-old Melissa Bailes Anderson with animal cruelty.

The complaint accuses Anderson of not properly caring for 17 rabbits, 15 dogs, six guinea pigs, nine birds and two pigs.

A Kanawha Charleston Humane Association officer went to the home last month following a complaint about an emaciated dog. According to the criminal complaint, subsequent visits found Anderson had still not provided the animals with adequate living conditions, and the animals have been seized. She was charged last week.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Anderson has an attorney to comment on the charges.


►  Canon lawyer joins fight to keep Catholic school open

Supporters of Bishop Donohue High School in McMechen are turning to a regional advocate for Catholic parishioner’s rights in efforts to stop the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston from closing the school.

Media outlets report Canon lawyer Philip Gray spoke Monday to a crowd of Donahue alumni and parents, offering his aid in combating the diocese’s decision to close the school at the end of the academic year.

A canon lawyer specializes in canon law, or the code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church.

The Most Rev. Michael Bransfield announced the decision to close Donohue last month, citing declining enrollment as a chief issue.

Gray says the steps available to school supporters include voicing complaints to the diocese, awaiting a response and, if necessary, appealing the decision to the Holy See.


►  Woman accused of embezzling nearly $90,000 from WVU

A Bruceton Mills woman has been indicted for embezzling $87,529 from West Virginia University, according to the office of Acting United States Attorney Betsy Steinfeld Jividen.

A federal grand jury indicted 55-year-old Loretta J. Reckart in Wheeling for one count of “Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds.”

The crime allegedly happened between October 2010 to July 2016 while Reckart was employed at WVU.

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

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert H. McWilliams is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The United States Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General investigated.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

JUDGES SCRUTINIZE TRUMP’S TRAVEL BAN

The appeals court panel hammers away at the government’s arguments that the ban was motivated by concerns about terrorism - but also sharply questions an attorney who said it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.


BETSY DEVOS WINS CONFIRMATION AS EDUCATION SECRETARY

The charter school advocate is approved by the slimmest of margins, pushed to approval only by the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Pence.


ARMY GIVES GO-AHEAD TO DAKOTA OIL PIPELINE

Construction could still be delayed because the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it still intends to fight the disputed four-state project in court.


WHO’S CLAMPING DOWN ON HATE SPEECH

Twitter says it has begun identifying people who have been banned for abusive behavior and will stop them from creating new accounts


UNUSUAL STATEMENT ACCOMPANIES MELANIA TRUMP’S LIBEL CLAIM

In a court filing, the first lady’s lawyers argue that a newspaper story was not only false and libelous, but also has damaged her ability to profit off her high profile and affected her business opportunities.


WHERE ISRAEL’S FRIENDS ARE DRAWING A LINE

A new law legalizing dozens of unlawfully built West Bank settlement outposts comes under heavy criticism even from some of Israel’s closest allies.


AFGHANISTAN FALLS ON PRIORITIES LIST

The conflict, now in its 16th year, is getting little attention so far from the Trump administration.


SOMALIA GEARS UP FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

After decades of chaos, the vote will be historic in this country of about 12 million. But some observers, mindful of corruption, worry whether it will be credible.


WHY DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD MAY BE TOO GOOD TO LAST

Consumers continue to abandon expensive cable subscriptions, a shift that threatens Disney mainstays such as ABC and ESPN.


FANS GREET PATRIOTS ON RETURN HOME

The five-time Super Bowl winners receive a hero’s welcome as they parade through downtown Boston.


Tesla and SpaceX have signed the amicus brief filed on Sunday by more than 100 tech companies against Trump’s immigration ban

CEO Elon Musk is controversially part of Trump’s business advisory council, but a spokesman said the companies had “insisted on being added” to the brief.


Investors and U.S. tech industry leaders like 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, investor Ron Conway, and Hyperloop One founder Shervin Pishevar have signed a letter saying the immigration ban will cause “irreversible harm”

They also criticized proposed changes to the H-1B visa.


Uber has reportedly hired a NASA engineer for its flying car

Mark Moore will reportedly become director of engineering for aviation on the Uber initiative, known as Uber Elevate.


Silicon Valley employees are planning an anti-Trump protest on March 14, also known as Pi Day (3/14 or 3.14)

Up to 1,000 attendees are expected to take part at Palo Alto City Hall.


Facebook is particularly vulnerable to any changes to the H-1B visa

More than 15% of its US employees hold a temporary work visa, meaning Facebook is classified as “dependent” on the H-1B.


Smart TV manufacturer Vizio will pay $2.2 million and delete consumer data after settling a privacy invasion case

The company was accused of spying on users and passing their viewing data to its own servers without consent, according to a filing by the US Federal Trade Commission.


Amazon is reportedly working on large supermarkets measuring up to 40,000 square feet primarily staffed with robots, and as few as three humans

Expanding on the company’s existing Amazon Go concept, the supermarkets would not feature cashiers, registers or lines.


One analyst has poured cold water on a widely predicted sales boom, or “supercycle”, for the iPhone 8

Above Avalon’s Neil Cybart suggested there won’t be a rush of “aging users” to upgrade to the iPhone 8, but that users would upgrade as and when they needed to.


Battery makers will face greater safety checks from South Korean regulators after Samsung’s exploding Note 7 debacle

The country’s trade ministry said manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries would be subject to more inspections, safety checks and product testing.


China is thinking about restricting internet access even further

The country has proposed establishing a new commission that would stop government departments from buying online services and hardware which haven’t been vetted.

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►  10 Best States to Raise a Family

If you’re looking to raise a family in the US, WalletHub has ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on how family-friendly they are. The site looked at 40 variables including median family salary, unemployment rate, and how affordable housing is. The top 10 best states to raise a family:

  1. North Dakota: It ranked 2nd socioeconomically, but 13th on “family fun.“
  2. New Hampshire: 3rd socioeconomically, 12th on affordability.
  3. Vermont: 1st on health and safety, 2nd on education and childcare—but 15th and 16th, respectively, on affordability and socioeconomics.
  4. Minnesota: 2nd on affordability, but 30th on family fun.
  5. Nebraska: 5th on family fun, affordability, and socioeconomics.
  6. Massachusetts: 2nd on health and safety, but 22nd on socioeconomics.
  7. New Jersey: 1st on education and childcare, but 26th on family fun.
  8. Iowa: 1st on affordability, and in the top 15 for all areas.
  9. Connecticut: 3rd on health and safety, but 34th on socioeconomics.
  10. South Dakota: 1st on family fun, but 30th on education and childcare.

Click for the COMPLETE LIST AND FULL RANKINGS.


►  Army Will Allow Completion of Dakota Access Pipeline

The Army has notified Congress that it will allow the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, completing the four-state project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois, the AP reports. The Justice Department filed court documents Tuesday including letters to members of Congress from Deputy Assistant Army Secretary Paul Cramer. The Army intends to allow the crossing under Lake Oahe as early as Wednesday. The crossing is the final big chunk of work on the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe worries a pipeline leak could pollute drinking water. It’s promised to continue legal challenges. Dallas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline is safe.


►  She Was George Washington’s Slave—Until She’d Had Enough

It appears the world is about to get familiar with the fascinating story of Oney Judge. As the New York Times explains, Judge (also known as Ona) was one of George Washington’s slaves until she managed to escape. The president took this as a personal affront—he huffed at her “ingratitude”—and tried to recapture her for years, right up until his death. Washington famously freed his slaves in his will, but Judge technically belonged to Martha and thus wouldn’t have been affected. Judge’s story hasn’t been widely told, but it is now included in an exhibition at Mount Vernon and is also the subject of a book, Never Caught, by the University of Delaware’s Erica Armstrong Dunbar. “We have the famous fugitives, like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass,” says Dunbar. “But decades before them, Ona Judge did this. I want people to know her story.”

And quite a story it is: Judge was born into slavery at Mount Vernon, and she traveled with the first couple first to New York and then to Philadelphia when Washington became president. It was in Philadelphia that Judge learned she was to be given to Martha’s granddaughter and re-shipped south. Instead, she slipped away from the presidential mansion with the help of free blacks and made it to New Hampshire. She would marry and have three children there, and though she lived in near poverty, she expressed no regrets in two interviews before her death in 1848, at around age 75, reports Philly.com. Washington, for his part, tried to skirt federal rules on the recapture of slaves and enlisted a customs employee to get her back, reports the New York Post. Judge, however, evaded all attempts at recapture.


►  Cop Sent to Bust Up Fight Busts a Move Instead

Attention all units, officer (getting) down. Constable Jarrod Singh of Toronto’s Durham Regional Police Service was called to the scene of a fight Sunday night, CBC reports. He arrived to find eight people surrounding another person. Singh says he can see how someone mistook it for a fight; but the person in the center of the crowd was actually break dancing. It turns out the group were members of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s dance troupe and were filming a music video.

The dancers thought they were about to be shut down when Singh showed up. Instead, after talking with the group for a bit, Singh says he “decided it was time to bust a move,“ the Global News reports. The results, according to the Ottawa Citizen, were “amazing.“ The Facebook video of Singh breaking it down with one of the dancers has been shared more than 800,000 times. This wasn’t the constable’s first rodeo; before joining the police, he was a member of his college’s dance troupe, which once opened for rapper Rick Ross.


►  Twitter broadens its campaign against hate and abuse

Twitter announced Tuesday that it is expanding efforts to protect its users from abuse and harassment, the latest milestone in a broader, growing corporate campaign to crack down on online hate.

The social media giant said it has begun identifying people who have been banned for abusive behavior and it will stop them from creating new accounts. The company said its changes, which also include a new “safe search” feature, will be implemented in the coming weeks.

In July, Twitter banned conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor of the right-wing news site Breitbart News, for “participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.“ Twitter subsequently suspended the accounts of other prominent figureheads of the “alt-right” fringe movement, an amorphous mix of racism, white nationalism, xenophobia and anti-feminism.

Twitter has been under fire for failing to address hate and abuse on the site since its founding a decade ago. Balancing its reputation as a free speech haven has come into conflict with efforts to protect users.

Other internet companies have taken recent steps to curb abusive behavior and ban users who violate rules against promoting hate.

Reddit banned a forum for white nationalists from its social news website last Wednesday. A message at the link for the “r/altright” subreddit attributed its ban to an impermissible “proliferation of personal and confidential information.“

Also last week, the crowdfunding website GoFundMe removed a campaign for a conservative author and self-described “researcher” on the internet conspiracy theory known as “pizzagate,“ which alleged with no evidence that Democrats were running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza shop. Brittany Pettibone had launched her GoFundMe campaign for a video podcast about “traditional values that once made Western Civilization great,“ including “love of one’s own culture, race and country.“

GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said in an email that Pettibone’s campaign was removed because it violated the company’s terms of service, which include rules against promoting hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, terrorism or “intolerance of any kind.“ Pettibone, who declined to be interviewed, tweeted that GoFundMe didn’t specify how her campaign violated its terms of service.

Hate speech and promoting violence have long been barred under the terms of service of internet and social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook. But in the months leading up to the contentious presidential election, the emergence of the “alt-right” and high-profile trolling campaigns like one targeting “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones thrust the issue to the forefront.

In November, for instance, AppNexus announced that it removed Breitbart News from its online advertising network because it said the news outlet had violated its policy against hate speech. AppNexus, which connects buyers and sellers of online ad space,“ determined that Breitbart “deployed crude racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual slurs in a way that could incite violence or discrimination against minority groups,“ a spokesman said at the time.

The crackdown isn’t limited to far-right extremists. In August, Twitter said it had suspended some 360,000 accounts over the previous year for violating its policies banning the promotion of terrorism and violent extremism. But the company says the changes announced Tuesday are “unrelated to that and focused on abuse and harassment.“

Also on Tuesday, Twitter said it’s creating a “safe search” feature that removes tweets with potentially sensitive content and tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. The tweets will still exist on Twitter if people look for them, but won’t appear in general search results.

Twitter is also making some replies less visible so only the most relevant conversations surface.

Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University, said Twitter still relies too heavily on its users to root out and report abusive material.

“I have a simple fix: Just hire a lot more humans,“ Grygiel said.

Don Black, whose Stormfront website is one of the oldest and most popular internet forums for white nationalists, said PayPal, Facebook and Amazon have cancelled his accounts since he launched the site in 1995. Andew Anglin, founder of neo-Nazi website called The Daily Stormer, also has said on his site that PayPal permanently shut down his online payment account in 2015.

“Nobody lasts very long on PayPal if you’re pro-white, which is unfortunate because a lot of people want to use PayPal to donate money,“ said Black, who instead encourages his supporters to donate with bitcoin, an electronic currency.

Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center say they frequently communicate with online companies to flag users spreading hate on their sites.

“This is a game that never seems to end,“ said the SPLC’s Mark Potok. “It’s a bit of a whack-a-mole thing.“


►  Judge Bans Teen From Sex Before Marriage

An Idaho judge has ordered a 19-year-old man not to have sex with anyone before he marries as part of his sentencing for the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl. Judge Randy Stoker sentenced Cody Duane Scott Herrera of Twin Falls to five to 15 years in prison, but he suspended the sentence for a one-year rider program. If the unmarried Herrera completes the program, he’ll be released on probation, which requires celibacy unless he weds, the AP reports. Herrera, who pleaded guilty in March to statutory rape of the 14-year-old girl, received the sentence in 5th District Court. “It was his intent from the beginning to take what he wanted from my 14-year-old child: her virginity,“ the victim’s mother told the court.

Stoker said the probation condition is needed because Herrera told investigators he’s had 34 sexual partners. “If you’re ever on probation with this court, a condition of that will be you will not have sexual relations with anyone except who you’re married to, if you’re married,“ Stoker told Herrera. Shaakirrah R. Sanders, an associate professor at the University of Idaho College of Law, says the probation condition might be illegal or unenforceable. “I think it infringes on his constitutional rights,“ she says. Sanders says judges have discretion in creating special probation terms, but they can’t violate the federal or state constitution. “I think if he appealed, he would win,“ Sanders said.


►  ‘Blue-Green Fireball’ Lights Up Midwest Skies

If you happened to be up late after the Super Bowl (and also follow the National Weather Service Chicago’s Twitter account), you would have gotten a sneak peek at the natural phenomenon that the rest of the world is now seeing. “Check out this INCREDIBLE video,“ the NWS tweeted, directing viewers to a seven-second clip of a meteor, described by the Chicago Tribune as a “bright blue-green fireball,“ streaking through the sky, as captured by a dashcam in a Lisle, Ill., police vehicle. USA Today reports the sky show could be seen across the Midwest, including in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa. Check out USA Today to see other videos of the meteor.


►  Legend of Lost Treasure Ship Thrives in California Desert

Alexander Nazaryan calls it “fake news for the romantic soul.“ Tales of a treasure-laden ship lost in the sands of California’s Colorado desert that—though the details change—have persisted for at least 140 years. The Newsweek reporter takes a journey into the desert with a former carpet salesperson turned treasure hunter—though he prefers “explorer of legends and lore”—to discover how believers in the lost treasure ship persist in the face of skeptics and, frankly, facts—and how they’re aided by the many implausibilities and minor miracles of the desert itself.

California was thought to be an island into the 1700s. It’s possible a Viking or Spanish ship—those who claim to have seen it can’t seem to agree on which—sailed up the Colorado River, which once emptied into the Gulf of California, believing it to be a strait before running aground. Or so the theory goes. A librarian claimed she saw the lost ship in 1933 while hiking with her husband, but it was buried by an earthquake the next day. There are also stories of a desert farmer using slats from a ship to make his fence or a Mexican husband promising his wife a Viking shield to help her make better tortillas. Read the full piece HERE to draw your own conclusions. Like Blake, you may find yourself being swayed by an oasis of catfish amid the desert’s rocks and sand.


►  Rancher Cliven Bundy Goes Against Feds in Court

A closely watched trial about the modern West and the freedom of ranchers to use federal land begins Monday in Las Vegas. The big name involved is rancher Cliven Bundy, who led an armed standoff in Nevada against federal agents in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees. His adult sons also face charges. Some coverage:

  • Seventeen men are charged, and three separate trials are planned. Jury selection for the first six begins Monday. The Bundys themselves will be in the second round. Courthouse News has details on the legal process.
  • The AP has background on Bundy’s standoff, explaining how it has its roots in a decades-long dispute between Western ranchers and the feds over land rights. Read it HERE .
  • This previous story in the Atlantic lays out the beliefs of Bundy, who doesn’t recognize federal authority over the land in question.
  • These trials are about far more than just one family; they’re about a movement, one sure to be emboldened if the men are acquitted, writes a columnist at the Las Vegas Sun.
  • In fact, two of Bundy’s sons were acquitted in October after another standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.
  • Prosecutors have a big potential problem: An unrelated ethics investigation into a federal agent who plays a key role in the Bundy case could upend the prosecution, reports the Arizona Republic.
  • Juror identities are secret, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal is trying to change that.
  • High Country News has a primer on the Bundy case, including links to background pieces HERE .


02.08.2017
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►  He Survived 8 Concentration Camps During the Holocaust

A man who survived eight Nazi concentration camps—including Auschwitz—died Monday night at the age of 94, the Manchester Evening News reports. According to the BBC, Chaim Ferster was taken from his home in Poland by the Nazis in 1943. He would go on to lose 30 relatives—including his mother, father, and two sisters—in the Holocaust. He suffered typhus and malnutrition while witnessing death marches, mass executions, and more. The chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust says Ferster “survived the worst horrors known to man.“ But he persevered, living, as a rabbi put it, “nine lives.“ A family member says Ferster was “powerful, determined, indefatigable.“

Ferster, who settled in England, found his experiences too difficult to discuss until he was in his 70s. His son tells the Jewish Chronicle it was a “forbidden topic” when he was growing up. But when Ferster finally found his voice, he used it, speaking to students, police, and others. His son says he was afraid “people would forget the horrors of the Holocaust.“ Last month, Ferster played the violin again for the first time since he was put in the camps; it had been too painful to do so for decades. And in the days before his death from pneumonia, he was visited by his 92-year-old sister, the only other family member to survive the Holocaust. Hundreds were expected to attend his funeral.


►  Ayatollah Khamenei Says Trump Is Proving Iran’s Point

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says he’s glad Trump has shown “the real face of America,“ Al Jazeera reports. According to CNN, the supreme leader of Iran noted the country’s leaders had been trying for decades to prove the US government’s corruption and Trump, who he referred to as “this new guy,“ managed to do it within days of taking office. Khamenei was making his first speech since Trump became president Tuesday in front of military officers in Tehran, the BBC reports.

Khamenei also brought up a 5-year-old Iranian boy who was handcuffed at an airport in the wake of Trump’s immigration and refugee ban. He said photos of the boy in cuffs “show the true meaning of American human rights.“ He said America’s stated positions on human rights “are no longer tenable.“ In the wake of a recent Iranian missile test, Trump tweeted at the country and issued new sanctions, but Khamenei said the president will be unable to scare Iranian citizens.


►  40K Separatists at Catalonia Pol’s Trial: ‘You Are Not Alone’

In 2014, the ex-leader of Catalonia helped set up a vote on independence from Spain—and on Monday, 40,000 protesters stood up for him outside a Barcelona court. The New York Times reports on the start of the trial for Artur Mas, who was charged with civil disobedience for banding together with two other politicians to set up the past referendum, which ended up garnering a majority of votes for secession from all those who cast ballots. The nonbinding vote had been declared illegal by Spain’s judiciary, and now prosecutors want to keep Mas and his two cohorts from running for office for a decade. The separatist demonstration outside the courthouse turned into a “pro-independence show of force,“ per Politico Europe, with Mas supporters waving banners and yelling, “You are not alone.“

Mas conceded he did help the 2014 vote along—Al Jazeera notes he was Catalonia’s regional leader at the time—but he insisted he was only supporting an initiative that tens of thousands of volunteers organized (and which was deemed illegal by the courts just days before the vote). Only about 2.3 million out of 6.3 million eligible citizens voted, but of those, more than 80% said they wanted to break free from Spain. Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, and his government don’t want the autonomous region to succeed in its attempt to secede, though one of his reps told reporters after Mas’ Monday hearing: “No one is being judged for his political ideas,“ per Politico. Mas had earlier noted in court that “independence isn’t on trial here, democracy is on trial,“ Al Jazeera notes.


►  European Central Bank head warns on Trump deregulation push

The head of the European Central Bank expressed concern about the Trump administration’s moves to relax financial oversight, saying such deregulation helped pave the way for the global financial crisis.

During a hearing in the European Parliament, ECB President Mario Draghi was asked about Trump’s efforts to revisit parts of the Dodd-Frank regulations aimed at keeping risk-taking banks from sparking a repeat of the 2007-9 financial turbulence that launched the Great Recession.

“Frankly, I don’t see any reason to relax the current regulatory stance which has produced a much, much stronger banking — and, generally, financial services — industry than we used to have before the crisis,“ Draghi said.

Draghi said that financial deregulation and expansive monetary policy were “exactly the ground on which the financial crisis developed.“

He added that more clarity was needed on what exactly Donald Trump’s government plans to do. Trump on Friday directed the Treasury to look for potential changes in the law’s provisions.

Responding to questions from the members of the parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, Draghi also rejected claims by the Trump administration that Germany gets unfair trade advantage from a weak euro.

Peter Navarro, head of the U.S. National Trade Council, has claimed that Germany is exploiting what he called a “grossly undervalued” currency. Lower currencies help exports; the euro has fallen from around $1.40 in 2014 to around $1.07 now.

Draghi responded Monday by saying that euro member Germany “has not engaged in persistent, one-sided intervention in foreign exchange markets.“

“We are not currency manipulators,“ he added.

Draghi said Germany’s large trade surplus was based on economic competitiveness, not currency advantage.

As a euro member, Germany by itself no longer controls the interest rate and monetary policies that could force down the euro. Those powers now reside at the ECB, created to manage the shared currency. In fact, German politicians and German members of the ECB’s board have agitated in vain for higher interest rate policy that would likely have strengthened the euro.

ECB stimulus has helped lower the euro. Draghi said those policies were carried out to boost the lagging recovery in Europe, not for currency advantage: “the monetary policies that we have conducted reflect the different stage of the cycle in the eurozone and the United States.“

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble deflected the criticism of Germany by saying in an interview published over the weekend that ECB policies that were right for the eurozone as a whole were too loose for Germany.

When Draghi launched the stimulus, “I told him that he would drive up Germany’s export surplus,“ Schaeuble was quoted as saying in the Tagesspiegel newspaper. “I promised then not to criticize this course but I also don’t want to be criticized for its consequences.“


►  China seeks to show pope, world its organ program reforms

China is stepping up its efforts to persuade the international medical community that it has stopped using executed prisoners as organ donors, sending a high-level delegation to a Vatican conference amid continued skepticism that the practice has ended.

China’s former vice minister of health, Dr. Huang Jiefu, acknowledged Monday that reforms to China’s organ transplant program have been slow and “very difficult.“ But he insisted that the measures taken to outlaw the practice have made significant progress even though China still “has a long way to go” to meet its transplant needs.

“From January 1, 2015, organ donation from voluntary civilian organ donors has become the only legitimate source of organ transplantations,“ he said in an interview at China’s embassy to Italy. “This is the whole story.“

Huang will deliver a speech at the Vatican conference Tuesday amid complaints from human rights groups and organ trafficking watchdogs that the Vatican is effectively endorsing a “whitewash” by inviting him.

“Without transparency, verification of alleged reforms is impossible,“ said Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of the group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, which called on the Vatican conference to demand China provide documented evidence and independent scrutiny about its practices.

The Vatican has defended the invitation, which comes as Pope Francis seeks to improve ties with Beijing and bring its estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome’s wing.

Huang publicly acknowledged in 2005 that China harvested executed inmates’ organs for transplant, and a paper he co-authored six years later reported that as many as 90 percent of Chinese transplant surgeries using organs from dead people came from those put to death. International human rights activists and domestic critics have long said that standard safeguards were ignored when obtaining organs from prisoners who may have been pressured to donate.

China said it would phase out the practice by 2015 and Huang told The Associated Press that it has kept to its word.

But doubts persist that China is meeting its pledge, given its severe shortage of organ donors and China’s longstanding black-market organ trade. By its own figures, China has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the world, because of ingrained cultural attitudes and a legal requirement that family members give consent before organs are donated, even if a person had expressed a desire to donate. Even the organ donation system’s advocates say it needs hundreds of additional hospitals and doctors.

Huang said the number of voluntary organ donors increased 50 percent from 2015 to 2016, to 4,080, and that he was “very optimistic” China would outpace the U.S. in terms of number of organ donors in five years. But he said China still needed help.

“That’s why we have come to the Vatican,“ he said. “We have come to learn as well as to tell what is happening in China.“

Huang said he is the highest-ranking Chinese official to attend a Vatican event, as a member of the official government advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress. Huang said his participation had been approved by China’s highest authorities, who wanted “China’s voice to be heard.“

Beijing severed diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1951, shortly after the Communist Party took power, and officially allows worship only in state-sanctioned churches. Starting with Pope Benedict XVI the Vatican sought to improve ties, and under Francis cultural exchanges have increased and working groups have met over the vexing issue of bishop nominations.

The conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences marks a next step, though Huang was quick to stress that he was attending as a surgeon and medical expert — not necessarily a diplomatic emissary.

Vivek Jha, executive director of the George Institute for Global Health in India, said it was important to keep engaging China in dialogue in hopes that they would make the necessary changes to the transplant system, while maintaining a healthy skepticism.

“It’s perhaps rather foolish of us to believe all the official statements of China saying that they have changed,“ he said. “Engaging them does not mean we have to accept their policies and the statements they make without any evidence of change.“


►  Church Cigarette Stunt May Mean Jail for Russian Woman

A young woman in western Russia picked the wrong time to be “insulting,“ as a controversial law approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 describes it. Or more likely, the 21-year-old is deliberately provoking authorities. Her crime? She posted a photo of herself lighting a cigarette with a candle in a Russian Orthodox church in the city of Belgorod, reports the Moscow Times. For that, she has been charged with “insulting the feelings of religious believers,“ under a law that came about in the wake of the stunts pulled by the feminist punk group ##### Riot. She faces up to three years in prison, reports the London Times.

“This is bad behavior, of course, but she should simply have been kicked out of the church,“ says Alexander Verkhovsky, whose Sova Centre group monitors anti-extremism measures. “It should not be a criminal offense.“ Hers is not the only such case to generate headlines. A 22-year-old man posted a video of himself playing Pokémon Go in a church in Yekaterinburg after state television warned that such game-playing was a no-no. He, too, was charged under the new law, and has been held since October. No trial dates appear to have been set in either case.


►  Target of Yemen Raid Escaped, Is Now Taunting Trump

Military officials who’ve been trying to justify a January 29 raid that killed a Navy SEAL in Yemen now say the goal was to capture al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi, who they believe escaped unscathed. They believe this because al-Rimi—considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world, per NBC News—can be heard taunting Trump in an 11-minute audio recording released over the weekend, which officials believe is authentic. “The new fool of the White House received a painful slap across his face,“ CNN quotes al-Rimi as saying. Al-Rimi also claims 25 people died in the raid, noting “dozens of Americans were killed and wounded,“ per the AP. The US military has said one Navy SEAL died and three others were wounded.

A White House official tells NBC that Trump approved the raid after Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told him al-Rimi’s capture would be a “game changer.“ However, an official tells CNN that al-Rimi was not essential to the mission, which officials believed would lead to him one way or another. Though al-Rimi wasn’t captured—it isn’t clear if he was at the site—military officials have said the mission was “successful.“ Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were killed and “al-Qaeda was disrupted, at least in terms of that cell,“ says a former national security adviser under former President George W. Bush. “They understand that the US is willing to lean forward, and perhaps they’re being deterred or disrupted in their activities.“


►  Amnesty: Horrors at Syrian Prison Include Weekly Mass Hangings

Every week, sometimes twice a week, a military facility in Syria executes more people than the United States executes in a year, according to a hard-hitting Amnesty International report on the “human slaughterhouse” that is Saydnaya Prison. Syria has been secretly killing up to 50 people at a time, mostly civilian opponents of the regime, in mass hangings at the prison, executing up to 13,000 people between 2011 and 2015, according to the report. It notes that there’s every reason to believe that the executions continue to this day. The executions are in addition to the estimated tens of thousands of deaths in prisons across Syria since the beginning of the civil war that were due to torture or inhumane conditions, the Guardian reports.

The only legal process inmates go through before they’re executed is a one- or two-minute hearing at a “Military Field Court,“ according to Amnesty, which spoke to 84 witnesses, including former guards, in the course of its investigation. A portion of the report: “Throughout this process, [the prisoners] remain blindfolded. They do not know when or how they will die until the noose was placed around their necks.“ Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty’s Beirut office, says upcoming peace talks cannot ignore the findings. “The horrors ... [were] authorized at the highest levels of the Syrian government, aimed at crushing any form of dissent.“ She calls for Iran and Russia, the regime’s closest allies, to push for an end to Syria’s “murderous detention policies.“

Trump’s Boyfriend

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Gilmer County Circuit Court Report

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Judge Jack Alsop spent all day in Gilmer County on Friday, February 03, 2017.


Two fugitives from justice waived to return to their states.

•  Deshawn Hood waived extradition to return to the state of Virginia.

•  Gary Reyes waived to return to Ohio.

Authorities in those states have until February 15, 2017 at 4 PM to come to the Central Regional Jail and pick them up or they will be released.

Both men were represented by Clinton Bischoff of Summersville.


Nine pretrials were scheduled to be heard in criminal cases.


•  William Reynolds had his bond lowered to $30,000.00 and his case was continued to the March, 2017 term of Court before Chief Judge Richard A. Facemire.

He was represented by Brian Bailey of Buckhannon.

Shannon Johnson is special prosecutor in this case and failed to have defendant transported from Central Regional Jail for the hearing.

After the Judge ordered the Clerk to call the jail, the defendants who were not transported by special prosecutors arrived at 10:40 AM


•  Patty Reynolds was before the Court with her attorney Clinton Bischoff and she will remain on the bond heretofore posted and her trial is still scheduled for February 15th.

Special prosecutor Johnson has a conflict this day and must file a notice of scheduling conference to be worked out between the 2 Judges.


•  Jason Starcher is still set for trial February 15th.

His attorney is Timothy Gentilozzi from Clarksburg.


•  Dale Carr had his drug case dismissed with prejudice due to the affidavit of search warrant not having been filed.

Carr’s attorney was David Karickhoff of Sutton.

Later after the affidavit had been located still in Magistrate Court, Judge Alsop informed Prosecutor Hough that he could file a motion for reconsideration in the case.


•  Dale Carr’s second trial remains on the docket for February 22nd.


•  Eric Williams trial is still on for February 16th despite both sides asking for a continuance.

His attorney is Tom Kupec of Clarksburg.


•  Ralph McCourt Jr. Is set for trial on February 22nd also, but both attorneys have to file briefs prior to trial for the Judge to rule on.

His attorney is Brian Bailey of Buckhannon.


•  James Christman was represented by David Karickhoff and his motion to suppress and for reduction of bond were both denied.

His trial still remains on February 15th also.


•  Joshua Bohn failed to appear for his pertrial and contacted his attorney 10 minutes prior to hearing to inform him that he was in rehab.

Judge Alsop cancelled his trial for February 9th and the prosecuting attorney asked for a bench warrant for his arrest and Judge Alsop granted it and set bond at $25,000.00.

Bohn’s attorney is Jeff Davis of Clay.


•  State of West Virginia  vs. Steven Crislip

He was before the Court for a preliminary hearing on revocation of probation again.

Crislip waived the preliminary and made admissions and Judge Alsop ordered him to spend 120 days in jail with credit for the 8 days already served and then readmitted him to 3 years probation.

All jail time will be attributed to the DOC rather than the county.

His attorney was Bryan Hinkle of Buckhannon.


•  Four juvenile matters were taken up.


•  Lastly Judge Alsop sentenced Keith Arbogast upon his jury conviction to 6 charges, but ran them together for a total to be served of 10-25 years in the penitentiary.

He remains free on bond pending appeal to the Supreme Court.

His attorney was Daniel Grindo from Gassaway.

Gilmer County Family Court Report

The Free Press WV

Gilmer County Family Court Judge Steve Jones heard cases in Family Court in Glenville today, February 01, 2017.


•  One divorce was granted with Bridget Freeby (58) of Sand Fork, WV divorcing Douglas Freeby(49) of Kunkletown, PA.


•  Guardian ad litems were appointed in 2 domestic violence cases and they were continued.


•  One domestic violence petition was terminated.


•  Temporary orders were entered in 2 divorce cases.


•  No order was entered in a case scheduled for contempt.

Voucher Plan Seen as Backdoor Medicare Cuts

Economists and seniors’ groups say a plan in Congress to make Medicare into a voucher system will shift substantial costs onto older Americans.
The Free Press WV

A plan in Congress to change the structure of Medicare is being called a threat to seniors’ health and finances by economists and advocates, including the seniors’ advocacy group AARP.

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republicans have voted to change Medicare from paying doctors directly to giving seniors vouchers they can use to buy private insurance – much like the subsidies in the insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, says that type of “premium support” would mean deep cuts in the program over time.

She warns to make up the difference, seniors would either have to pay thousands of dollars more out of pocket, or reduce the amount of medical care they get.

“Who’s going to pay for that?” she asks. “Patients and consumers – American citizens, the elderly people in this country – are then going to be saddled with those burdens. And that’s not actually going to lower costs overall.“

Ryan calls the cuts necessary because growing costs threaten to bankrupt the system.

But Gould argues the real problem is the overall cost of health care. She says Medicare’s costs are growing more slowly than private insurance, especially since the passage of health care reform.

Gould says it’s strange to hear people who call the ACA, or Obamacare, a disaster, argue in favor of making Medicare more like it.

She agrees that forcing people to pay more of the cost of their own care would do little to slow health care inflation, and could actually reduce the use of cheaper, preventive care, which the current Medicare system encourages.

“Medicare has been the leader in being able to restrain cost growth, and so that should be the model that we follow,” she states. “I don’t believe that that private competition is actually going to get you any cash savings in the long run.“

The current Medicare system is extremely popular among the 57 million Americans enrolled in it. West Virginia has a larger portion of its population enrolled in the program than almost any other state.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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