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GSC Instructor Travels to Mexico for COIL Class

GLENVILLE, WV - Glenville State College Web Technology Specialist and adjunct professor Leslie Ward recently traveled to Puebla, Mexico for two days to speak to faculty and administration at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) about Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). COIL is different from online learning because the focus of COIL is cultural exchange, whereas online courses and massive open online courses (sometimes simply referred to as MOOCs) focus solely on course content and students interact very little, if at all. Under COIL, the original course content remains wholly or partially unchanged, and the partner teachers work together to develop collaborative modules that help meet the goals of the individual courses while enriching cultural awareness of the students enrolled in the courses.

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Ward (center) with her certificate of Reconocimiento along with faculty and
members of the Internationalization staff at BUAP


On the first day of her trip, Ward met with the faculty of the Public Accounting department and gave a presentation on COIL and how she and her partner teacher Lety Poblano integrated COIL modules into their Web Design (at GSC) and Business English (at BUAP) courses. She discussed the challenges they faced, what they considered their successes, and their ‘lessons learned.’

Next, Ward met with about forty students, many who were involved in the Business English COIL course, and spoke to them about the culture of West Virginia, Gilmer County, and Glenville State College. She shared photographs with them and distributed items that exemplified West Virginia culture. The items included copies of the local and campus newspaper, GSC’s literary magazine, a lump of coal from the Beckley Exhibition Coal mine, pens and lanyards from GSC, American candies, and more. “I was greeted warmly and the students listened attentively and engaged in a lively question and answer session afterwards,” Ward said. “I felt sort of like a celebrity, posing for dozens of ‘selfies’ with the students.”

Some of the Business English students shared handwritten notes and small gifts of locally crafted jewelry and pottery to be delivered to their American peers at GSC. “This is really what COIL is about, in a nutshell,” remarked Ward. “Breaking barriers, making new friends, and forging alliances across cultural and geographic differences.”

On the second day of her trip, Ward conducted a master class which was attended by faculty representatives from various departments across BUAP’s campus. This master class also was attended by representatives from the university’s internationalization staff. Again, the focus was COIL and how she and Poblano implemented COIL in their own classrooms. Faculty and staff alike were excited about COIL and asked questions about how to locate partner teachers and adapt their courses into a successful COIL experience. The faculty and staff also received shirts, candies, and GSC Bluegrass Band CDs from Ward. In turn, she was presented with a certificate of ‘Reconocimiento por su participación como professor visitante’ – a certificate of recognition for her participation as a visiting professor.

The Free Press WV
BUAP students who attended a lecture on the culture of West Virginia,
Gilmer County, and Glenville State College with GSC’s Leslie Ward


“It was such an honor to be able to travel to Puebla and represent Glenville State College,” Ward said. “The COIL class was a lot of hard work, but the students, my partner teacher Lety, and I have reaped benefits far surpassing our expectations. It was exciting to be able to share all that with other educators while strengthening the partnership between GSC and BUAP.”

Glenville State College has coordinated several COILed courses over the past few semesters. Additionally, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Director of International Programs Dr. Megan Gibbons has been selected as a Fulbright scholar through the internationally recognized Fulbright Program. She will travel to the University of Oviedo in Asturias, Spain during the spring 2017 semester to conduct research on the COIL process.

For more information about COIL courses at GSC, contact Gibbons at or 304.462.6328.

FERC Called “Biased Against Local Concerns”

CHARLESTON, WV - The federal agency that approves or denies gas pipelines is oriented against the concerns of landowners and communities, according to people working on the issues.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will decide on the huge pipelines competing to bring natural gas through West Virginia and Virginia to eastern markets.

Spencer Phillips, chief economist for Key-Log Economics, studied the impact of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

He estimates it will hurt folks along the line to the tune of more than $8 billion. But Phillips says FERC is not designed or inclined to consider those costs.

“FERC’s approval process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is really a rigged game,“ says Phillips. “The agency’s procedures themselves, as well as their track record, mean that they ignore some really important cost to people and communities.“

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Critics say the federal agency with the power to allow pipeline like those proposed for the region is
oriented not to take into account the concerns of people along the route.
(Rick Webb - Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition)


According to a Washington lawyer who specializes in cases like these, FERC’s orientation is built into its legal DNA.

Carolyn Elefant, an energy attorney in Washington D.C., says the 1930s Natural Gas Act was passed at a time when the government wanted to encourage the development of needed infrastructure.

She says it gave regulators the power to use eminent domain to overcome landowner opposition.

So, Elefant says FERC now assumes if most landowners make a deal with the developers, the folks along the line have received fair compensation.

“That’s very inaccurate,“ says Elefant. “Many times people enter into the agreements because they feel like they have no choice, they’re not going to be able to fight a huge gas company, and they figure they might as well take what they can get.“

Elefant says the federal agency may seem intimidating to ordinary folks. But she stresses that even when it seems that way, it’s still worth trying to make your case the same way pipeline developers do.

Phillips says when it comes to determining if there is a need for the MVP, it’s still unclear if the agency will listen to the landowners and local communities, or just the power company.

“The firm obviously wants to make money for its shareholders,“ he says. “However, it has not been demonstrated that there is any public benefit, outside of the corporation itself, that there would be any public benefit.“

The pipeline developers argue the lines are justified to meet future public demand for gas in North Carolina and coastal Virginia.

FERC says it does balance impacts and demand when determining overall “public convenience and necessity.“

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

FUNDING FOR YEAGAR AIRPORT IN TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING APPROPRIATIONS

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Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) applauded the Senate passage of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, which provides funding for vital transportation and housing programs throughout the country. Specifically, Senator Manchin included an amendment that allows airports that are in need of critical infrastructure repairs like Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV.

“My amendment will give airports access to the funding they need to make necessary repairs,” Senator Manchin said. “Without any change to current law, places like Yeager find themselves empty handed when disaster strikes, ineligible for any of the federal programs designed to help make them whole again.”

The March 13th Yeager Airport landslide was a result of severe winter weather and caused the airport’s Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) to collapse, pushing 800,000-CY of earth and debris toward a church and numerous private residences.  Utility electric, fiber optics, water, and sewer services were in the path of the landslide and were eventually disrupted.  After several days, the earth and debris that moved downhill from the reinforced soil fill and EMAS site finally rested on the road below.

Below is a list of additional provisions Senator Manchin included in the bill:


Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment – This amendment will help get more Veterans back to work, by addressing understaffing issues within the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.


TIGER Grant Funding – This legislation provides $525 million in funding for “National Infrastructure Investments” also known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grants. Additionally, the bill requires 30 percent to go to rural areas.


Essential Air Service – The bill appropriates $150 million in funds for the Essential Air Service program that enables flights to reach small and rural airports throughout West Virginia.

Did You Know?

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SANDERS THINKS DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION COULD BE ‘MESSY’

In an exclusive AP interview, the candidate pushes the party to adopt his progressive agenda, but adds “Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle.“


OFFICER CLEARED OF ALL CHARGES IN FREDDIE GRAY CASE

Edward Nero remains on desk duty and still faces a departmental probe that could result in disciplinary action.


OBAMA BANISHES VIETNAM WAR VESTIGE BY LIFTING ARMS EMBARGO

Activists say the president is being too quick to gloss over serious human rights abuses in his push to establish warmer ties with Hanoi.


IRAQI LEADER CITES EARLY SUCCESS IN PUSH TO RETAKE FALLUJAH

The operation to wrestle the city from Islamic extremists promises to be one of the toughest challenges yet for the country’s security forces.


WHO SOUGHT TO INFLUENCE STUDY ON BRAIN INJURIES

The NFL tried to strong-arm the National Institutes of Health into taking the project away from a researcher who the league feared was biased, according to a senior House Democrat.


WHAT VA SECRETARY COMPARES HEALTH-CARE LINES TO

Republicans criticize Robert McDonald’s comparison of waits at VA hospitals to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks.


SCHOOL THREATS COULD BE LATEST IN SCHOOL “SWATTING”

Hoaxers allegedly use proxy servers to anonymously threaten schools online or in phone messages with electronic voices to trigger a huge police response.


LEFT-LEANING CANDIDATE WINS AUSTRIA PRESIDENCY

European mainstream parties join Austrian supporters of Alexander Van der Bellen in congratulating him on his victory over Norbert Hofer.


WHERE ANGELINA JOLIE IS GOING TO TEACH

The Oscar-winning actress and activist is appointed a visiting professor at the London School of Economics.


WHY FIFA FIRES FINANCE DIRECTOR

Markus Kattner is sacked after an internal investigation revealed he got irregular bonus payments worth millions of dollars.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   New memorial honors Native Americans who served in military

GRAFTON, WV — A memorial honoring Native Americans who served in the United States Armed Forces has been installed at the West Virginia National Cemetery.

The memorial has been 87-year-old Barbara Crandell’s mission for the past ten months. At Saturday’s unveiling, Crandell placed flags for her family members, including her husband, who served in the military.

The memorial stands near the Blue Star Memorial in the cemetery.

Mark Routier helped Crandell, who he calls “grandmother,“ in her efforts with the memorial. Routier says it’s important to keep the history of Native Americans alive.

Crandell, a West Virginia native, now lives in Ohio and also had a memorial placed in the Dayton National Cemetery.


►   National Parks Service opens environmental education camp

HINTON, WV — A camp for environmental education is now open to the public in Summers County, West Virginia.

The Camp Brookside celebrated its opening Saturday afternoon.

National Park Service District Supervisor David Bieri says the camp is opening as a residential center and environmental education center for locals.

He says Camp Brookside will feature day camps and overnight activities for children. It will also include activities such as paddle board lessons, Tai Chi, hikes, yoga and more.

The camp was formerly an employee camp for Union Carbide employees from Alloy, West Virginia. It was bought by the National Parks Service in 1993 and was restored thanks to funds by West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd, who died in 2010.


►   WV AG to take applications for medication incinerators

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says law enforcement agencies can soon apply for incinerators for unwanted and expired prescription medication.

Morrisey says in a news release that his office and the attorney general Public Health Trust’s advisory board will review and award grants in August.

He says priority will be given to law enforcement agencies that have received or previously applied for drop boxes where residents can dispose of medications.

The advisory board consists of members of the Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia State Medical Association, West Virginia Nurses Association and the state Higher Education Policy Commission.

Morrisey wants to reduce prescription drug use in West Virginia by at least 25 percent. The state leads the nation in the rate of overdose deaths.


►   Injured motorcyclist awarded over $500K in lumber spill suit

CHARLESTON, WV — A jury has awarded more than $500,000 to a South Charleston motorcyclist who was injured in a lumber spill wreck.

Jurors reached the verdict last week in Larry Keeling Jr.‘s case.

Keeling’s attorney Ben Salango says his client was riding his motorcycle on Corridor G in August 2014 when lumber that had spilled across the roadway caused him to crash.

Salango says Keeling, who was injured, had to retire from his job after undergoing two surgeries.

He filed a lawsuit against Kevin Hanson, who was driving the truck pulling the trailer full of lumber, and Hanson’s insurance company, Travelers.

Keeling’s lawyer says Travelers refused to accept responsibility for the accident.


►   West Virginia raw milk law has taken effect

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginians are now allowed to drink raw milk through animal-sharing agreements.

The law that was passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin went into effect Monday.

The law lets people strike agreements to share milk-producing animals and drink raw milk. It maintains a ban on selling or distributing raw milk.

People have to sign a document acknowledging the health risks before entering agreements. Animals need to have passed health tests within the last year.

Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year. In his veto message, he wrote that the bill would pose a serious risk to public health, since raw milk can contain particularly dangerous bacteria for children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.


►   New gun laws go into effect Today

West Virginia’s new conceal carry rules go into effect on May 24, but the constitutional carry bill, which eliminates the need for a concealed carry permit, does not give citizen carte blanche to carry a firearm where ever they want.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Long-Lost Daughter Calls Mom After 83 Years

Eileen Wagner kept a secret for over 80 years—and it was a big one. As a teenager living in a Green Bay suburb in 1932, she was raped by a boy, sent to a home for pregnant girls, and forced to give up the child for adoption. “In those days, it was such an embarrassment,“ the 99-year-old tells the Chicago Tribune. “It was a lonesome time.“ She never hoped to see her daughter again, but a phone call she received in her Monroe, Wis., home last month brought tears of joy. “Hello, Mother,“ said her long-lost daughter, 83-year-old Dorien Hammann, on the line. The way it happened is an astonishing testament to how modern attitudes and technology have revolutionized adoption reunions. As for Wagner, she admits to thinking of her daughter every day but says she only told the true story to her now-deceased husband, Richard.

“Everything is so open now, but years ago,“ experiences like hers were “taboo,“ says Wagner. Meanwhile, Hammann was raised by a civil engineer and homemaker in a Milwaukee suburb and told about her adoption—but never felt the need to reconnect. Then states began revealing adoption records after research in the 1980s and ‘90s showed that adoption reunions were often positive experiences. Eventually Hammann’s daughter-in-law Googled names from the adoption document, contacted Wagner, and a reunion was in the works. It turned out to be a happy one, with mom and daughter talking and comparing similarities for hours. “I thanked her for giving me up because I did have such a good home,“ says Hammann. But not everyone is so happy: In Canada, unwed mothers who were forced to give up their children for adoption decades ago are demanding that the government acknowledge their trauma, the Globe & Mail reports.


►   New Orleans Is Sinking Faster Than Previously Thought

Scientist already knew that New Orleans was sinking. But a new study finds that the Big Easy and its environs are losing elevation (a process called subsidence) at a faster rate than previously thought—some two inches per year near the Mississippi River and in industrial areas, and more than an inch-and-a-half in the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The Weather Channel sums up the issue: “When a city already sits below sea level, any additional sinking is a cause for major concern.“ The new information was collected between 2009 and 2012 using radar images taken from an aircraft flying the same route year after year, per the Advocate. Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, UCLA, and LSU participated. Their findings were published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The new data will help planners more effectively reverse the effects of subsidence, thus “improving the long-term coastal resiliency and sustainability of New Orleans,“ says lead author Cathleen Jones, per Phys.org. “The more recent land elevation change rates from this study will be used to inform flood modeling and response strategies, improving public safety.“ Previous data was collected with lower resolution radar, the CSM notes, and didn’t provide the full picture of subsidence in the region. The sinking is, in large part, caused by pumping groundwater and surface water. Earth being weighed down by deposited sediments, as well as removal of oil and gas, also play a role. A rise in sea levels (some three inches since 1992) also is a factor. “People need to understand that the planet is not only changing, it’s changed,“ a NASA scientist says.


►   3 Mayors Walk Into an Elevator, Get Stuck

Three mayors walk into an elevator—but what happened next was no joke, reports the AP, though the officials managed to amuse themselves until they could be rescued about 40 minutes later. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto got stuck in the Westin Hotel elevator Thursday evening along with the mayors of Pennsylvania towns of Millvale and Leetsdale. They had been attending a meeting of the Allegheny League of Municipalities. At first, it wasn’t clear how they’d get out because none of the mayors, and others stuck along with them, could get cellphone service. “It was very hot and humid and sweaty, but we survived,“ Millville Mayor Vincent Cinski tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“We had a great discussion of everything from Twitter and the fact that we couldn’t get any connection to our phones, to the development in the city of Pittsburgh and the suburbs,“ says a rep for the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, who was also stranded. The fifth stranded elevator rider was luckily a hotel worker who was able to summon maintenance crews and first responders using a walkie-talkie. And while the mayors couldn’t call for help, they did manage to use their phones to TAKE A SELFIE.


►   The 10 Healthiest Cities in America

The nation’s capital leads the way in health. Washington, DC, is the fittest city in the country based on personal health and environmental factors, including access to parks and walkability, Today reports via the American Fitness Index. But there’s good news for those outside the city: The survey found a “huge increase” in the number of Americans who said they’d exercised in the last 30 days—up to 76.8% from 68.7% last year. The top 10 cities:

  1. Washington, DC
  2. Minneapolis
  3. Denver
  4. Portland
  5. San Francisco
  6. Seattle
  7. Boston
  8. Salt Lake City
  9. Hartford, Conn.
  10. San Diego

See where your city ranks   HERE .


►   In NH, a Tiny Mountain Wins Again and Again

Why does such a small mountain kill so many people?“ That’s the question Wes Siler, writing for Outside Online, set out to answer. The mountain in question is 6,288-foot-tall Mt. Washington, part of New Hampshire’s White Mountain range. Since records began in 1849, more than 150 people have died on Mt. Washington. In February 2015, Kate Matrosova became one of them, the Boston Globe reports. Faced with winds of up to 140mph and temperatures below 35 degrees, the 32-year-old seasoned outdoorswoman died of exposure before rescuers could reach her. “God only knows why she didn’t turn back,“ one of those rescuers, Steve Dupuis, tells Siler. Silver and Dupuis hiked Mt. Washington recently. Before they hit the trail, a state cop told them about Canadian Francois Carrier, who hadn’t been seen since starting the hike up the mountain earlier this month in flip flops and a T-shirt.

The search for Carrier was suspended last week, WMTW reports. The day after, Siler notes, the temperature on the mountain was minus 20 degrees. And that’s one part of the answer to the question of why Mt. Washington is so deadly. “Mount Washington sits at the intersection of several major stormtracks,” a weather observer says, which creates extreme, unpredictable weather. And the area’s location and topography make for extreme winds. On May 16, gusts on the mountain reached 106mph, per NPR. (See video   HERE .) The record, set in 1934, was 231mph. In addition to the weather, Siler writes, Mt. Washington consists of tough terrain, and the danger of avalanches and icefalls looms. Noting that the mountain, treacherous as it is, is easily accessible to inexperienced hikers, Siler ultimately comes to the conclusion that, “On Washington, it’s lack of preparation, not the mountain that kills.“


►   Baltimore Cop Acquitted in Freddie Gray Case

He gambled on a non-jury trial, and the decision seems to have paid off for one of the six Baltimore cops accused in the death of Freddie Gray. A judge on Monday acquitted Edward Nero of assault and other charges related to last year’s death of Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody, reports the AP. A jury trial of another officer previously ended in a hung jury, and he will be retried. The other four officers also face trial before the end of the year. Nero, 30, was one of three officers on bike patrol who initially chased and arrested Gray, and his defense team argued that he had little to do with any of the injuries Gray later sustained, reports the Baltimore Sun.

As the verdict was read, Nero dropped his head down and his attorney placed a hand on his back. The courtroom was quiet. When the judge said he was not guilty, Nero stood up and hugged his attorney, and appeared to wipe away a tear. “The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,“ Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams said. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.“


►   TV Reporter Accused of Pooping on Random Lawn

An Arizona TV reporter has been charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly defecating in someone’s front yard. It appears Jonathan Lowe, 33, may lose his job as well: In its brief report about the on-the-job incident last week, Phoenix station KPHO/KTVK refers to Lowe as “a former KPHO/KTVK reporter.“ And, although the station’s news director told the New York Daily News Wednesday that Lowe was still employed, his bio on the station website was no longer active. A police spokesman tells People that Lowe was covering a story in the city of Goodyear when things went south. “Apparently he needed to relieve himself,“ the spokesman says. “So he walked up to the side of a home and, in the front yard, defecated.“

A resident, who says she spotted Lowe squat against the wall of a house and let go, called authorities, according to the police report. “I know what you want to talk to me about,“ he reportedly said to police, explaining, “I’ve been feeling very sick and I’ve been stuck in this van all day. So I went over to that person’s yard and took care of business.“ Lowe told police that he had to stay in the area, so heading to a nearby market to unburden his bowels was out. The neighbor, who recognized Lowe from TV, tells police she would have let Lowe use her bathroom, if only he’d asked. “Those people who called on me just wanted to start problems,“ Lowe reportedly told police.


►   Parents Get Letter About Missing Son 39 Years Later

A cold case in Maine about a teen who vanished nearly 40 years ago is getting a fresh look from police after his parents received an anonymous letter out of the blue. Police are saying very little about the letter’s contents, but they hope the author will reach out again and perhaps end the mystery of what happened to Bernard “Bunny” Ross, reports the Bangor Daily News. Police say Ross, then 18, vanished on May 12, 1977, after taking the family car to his aunt’s house in Presque Isle, then stealing another car near her home. It was found about 20 miles away, and Ross has been a missing person since. His parents—Bernard Sr., 80, and Carol, 78—say he’d been going through “ups and downs” at the time, but nothing out of the ordinary. The unsigned letter arrived after a local newspaper story about missing persons a few months ago mentioned their son, reports the Portland Press Herald.

The letter writer claimed to have information about the disappearance, but police aren’t divulging details. “I’ve never had anything like this happen in my career,” says Maine State Police Lt. Troy Gardner. “Basically, all we’re doing is extending an olive branch, saying we want to make contact with this person.“ Gardner adds that police can’t even be sure at this point that the letter isn’t a hoax. The Rosses are going public in the hope that the letter writer, who suggested that another newspaper story be written, is legit. It’s been the lack of resolution that’s been so hard to deal with all these years, says Carol Ross. “It’s not like there was a death. It was the unknown,“ she says. “There was always the hope that he’d walk through the door one day.”


►   41 Years Later, Vietnam Arms Embargo Is History

American guns—and the US Peace Corps—may soon be making their way to Vietnam. President Obama, who’s making his first visit to the country, announced on Monday that the decades-old US embargo will be completely lifted to give Vietnam “access to the equipment it needs to defend itself” and “remove a lingering vestige of the Cold War,“ the Los Angeles Times reports. But human rights advocates were disappointed that Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang failed to unveil any fresh policies to go along with the lifting of the ban, though Tran and Obama did announce that the Peace Corps will be allowed to operate in Vietnam for the first time.

The full lifting of the 1975 embargo, which follows a 2014 loosening to boost maritime security, was seen partly as an attempt to counter China’s strength, the Washington Post reports, though Obama said it “was not based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam.“ The White House says that while the US sale of lethal arms to Vietnam is now legally possible, sales will be looked at on a case-by-case basis and approval will be linked to improvements in human rights. (Obama’s Asia trip will also include a visit to Hiroshima, which will be the first by a sitting US president.)

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Afghan leaders see Taliban leader’s death as hopeful sign

KABUL, Afghanistan — The killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike was greeted Sunday by Kabul’s political leadership as a game-changer in efforts to end the long insurgent war plaguing Afghanistan.

In a rare show of unity, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah both welcomed the news of Mansour’s death as the removal of a man who unleashed violence against innocent civilians in Afghanistan and was widely regarded as an obstacle to peace within the militant group.

Mansour, believed to be in his 50s, was killed when a U.S. drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistan province of Baluchistan, although there were conflicting accounts whether the airstrike occurred Friday or Saturday. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last summer.

Mansour “engaged in deception, concealment of facts, drug-smuggling and terrorism while intimidating, maiming and killing innocent Afghans,“ Ghani said in a statement on his official Twitter account.

“A new opportunity presents itself to those Taliban who are willing to end war and bloodshed,“ he added.

Mansour was “the main figure preventing the Taliban joining the peace process,“ Abdullah said, speaking live on television as he chaired a Cabinet meeting. “From the day he took over the Taliban following the death of Mullah Omar, he intensified violence against ordinary citizens, especially in Afghanistan.“

Ghani and Abdullah serve in a so-called national unity government brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry following a divisive 2014 election. As president and chief executive, the two rarely see eye-to-eye on even the most important decisions for a country beset by war for almost 40 years, including appointments to key security posts.

On Sunday, at least, they seemed to be on the same page.

Kerry hailed the news of Mansour’s demise even before it was officially confirmed — an indication of how much Washington has wearied of the Taliban’s 15-year war with Kabul.

“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort,“ Kerry said, speaking from Myanmar. “He also was directly opposed to peace negotiations and to the reconciliation process. It is time for Afghans to stop fighting and to start building a real future together.“

His death clears the way for a succession battle, the movement’s second in less than a year. Whoever wins that battle will largely determine the direction for both the Taliban and the beleaguered Afghan peace process.

Mansour leaves behind a checkered history during his brief reign. He ascended to the leadership shrouded in controversy and accusations from many of his own senior commanders. That internal bitterness stemmed from the revelation last summer of Mullah Omar’s death more than two years earlier — a fact that Mansour and his clique seem to have hidden not only from the outside world but from other senior Taliban commanders.

Mansour’s subsequent formal coronation as Taliban leader prompted open revolt inside the group for several months, with members of Mullah Omar’s family rebelling and Taliban ground forces splitting into factional warfare.

But Mansour patiently mended the rift, appointing as his deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful semi-independent al-Qaida-affiliated Haqqani network faction. Haqqani helped bring Mullah Omar’s brother and son back into the fold in exchange for senior leadership positions.

While he played peacemaker inside the Taliban, Mansour pursued an aggressive line with the Kabul government, shunning all overtures for peace and launching a series of bold attacks.

In September 2015, Taliban fighters surprised Afghan security forces and overran the northern city of Kunduz — the first time since their regime was overthrown in the 2001 U.S. invasion that they had captured a provincial capital.

They held the city for four days before retreating in the face of a coordinated U.S.-backed government assault, but the end result was an enduring embarrassment for Ghani’s government. In the aftermath, Mansour boasted about the prowess of his men and promised that the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul was only a matter of time.

Mansour’s death inside Pakistan could further damage the already deeply suspicious relationship between Kabul and Islamabad.

Afghan and U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency of keeping the Taliban leadership safe in cities across the porous and lawless border. A senior Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, complained before Mansour’s death was announced that Taliban fighters were being taken from the battlefields of Afghanistan to Pakistani hospitals.

In a statement late Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry repeated the country’s protest of drone attacks on its territory. It also repeated Pakistan’s preference to settle the protracted war in Afghanistan through talks, calling on the Taliban to renounce violence in favor of negotiations.

“While further investigations are being carried out, Pakistan wishes to once again state that the drone attack was a violation of its sovereignty, an issue which has been raised with the United States in the past as well,“ it said.

Ghani has not hidden his own frustrations with Islamabad.

His government initially embraced Pakistan’s role as a liaison to the Taliban and engaged in four-nation meetings with Pakistan, China and the U.S. seeking to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. But he has publicly soured on Islamabad: At the most recent quartet meeting, Kabul declined to send a high-level delegation and was represented only by the ambassador to Pakistan.

Political analyst Haroun Mir noted Mansour’s apparent confidence in moving around the Pakistani province of Baluchistan in an unarmored car with no convoy, decoys or other security precautions. That shows “the Taliban are active and move freely with the support of the Pakistani authorities,“ Mir said.

Mansour’s death could open a new chapter in Kabul’s quest for enduring peace with the Taliban, Mir said. The time has come, he added, for “the Afghan government to get some benefit out of this, in bringing the Taliban into the peace process.“

Whether the Taliban will be open to those fresh overtures depends on who succeeds Mansour. Afghan officials say meetings have already begun in the Pakistani city of Quetta among the Taliban elite to discuss the direction the movement will take.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqub, the son of Mullah Omar, is popular, charismatic and believed by some officials to favor participation in peace talks. He controls the Taliban’s military commissions in 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Haqqani is another candidate. His network has deep pockets and is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, including one in Kabul on April 19 that killed 64 people and injured more than 300.

In the meantime, the drone strike that killed Mansour has sent a message to other extremist leaders — not only Taliban but others active in Afghanistan and the region — that they are no longer safe on Pakistani territory.

“It was a message to Pakistan that whenever the USA wants, it can attack whoever they want inside Pakistan,“ said independent analyst Ahmad Saedi. “It was a message to the Taliban that no one is safe, and if America wants, it can target anyone, anywhere, at any time.“


►   Obama: Killing Was a Message to Taliban

Mullah Mansour was killed in an American drone strike over the weekend and he had it coming, President Obama said Monday. In the first official US confirmation of the Taliban leader’s death, Obama called the killing in Pakistan an “important milestone” that has “removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and coalition forces,“ the New York Times reports. Obama, who is visiting Vietnam, explained that the US is not “re-entering the day-to-day combat operations that are currently being conducted by Afghan security forces.“

But Mansour had rejected peace talks and continued to plan attacks on US troops, and it is “my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by, but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others that we’re going to protect our people,“ Obama said, per the AP. “And that’s exactly the message that has been sent.“ A senior Taliban member had already confirmed the death of Mansour, who became the group’s official leader after the death of Mullah Omar was announced last year. Reuters reports that a Taliban leadership council has already begun meeting to choose a successor. Sources say that the group fears it could split into many feuding factions. To promote unity, a relative of Mullah Omar may be chosen as the next leader.


►   Iraq Launches Offensive Against ISIS’ Longest-Held City

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of military operations to retake the ISIS-held city of Fallujah in a televised address on Sunday night. Iraqi forces are “approaching a moment of great victory” against ISIS, said al-Abadi, who was surrounded by top military commanders from the Ministry of Defense and the country’s elite counterterrorism forces. However, Iraqi forces are expected to face a complicated fight to push ISIS out of Fallujah, which is about 40 miles west of Baghdad and has been under the militants’ control for more than two years, the AP reports. Asked about the Iraqi announcement on plans to retake Falliujah, the US State Department and the Pentagon did not immediately comment.

During the Iraq War, Fallujah was an insurgent stronghold—and the site of the war’s bloodiest battle. In November 2004, US forces led a coalition attack against several thousand insurgents in Fallujah in which thousands of buildings were destroyed in house-to-house fighting. More than 80 US troops were killed along with an estimated 2,000 insurgents. Fallujah is still home to tens of thousands of civilians and has been under ISIS rule since January 2014, when it was the first city to fall to the group. Iraqi security forces repeated calls for civilians trapped inside Fallujah to flee on Sunday, but residents say that checkpoints controlled by the extremists along all roads leading out of the city are preventing most from fleeing.


►   Officials Agree to Move City 2 Miles East

What to do when a city is sinking? Why, you move it of course. That’s what the Swedish city of Kiruna has decided because iron mining below it has weakened the foundations of houses and buildings, Tech Insider reports. Now LKAB, the state-owned company behind the mining, is dedicating billions of dollars to moving Kiruna about two miles east. The ongoing 30-year plan includes relocating twenty-one particular buildings (like Kiruna’s city hall and its attractive church) and paying residents to have their homes demolished and rebuilt at the new location, the Guardian reported last year. An Arctic city that’s in darkness most of the year, Kiruna “will be a bit like a walking millipede with a thousand feet, moving, crawling, slowly ... toward the east,“ says an architect in a promotional video for the plan.

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Critics say social networks will be shattered by the move and relocated residents will have higher rents, but on the bright side, the new city is supposed to be more walkable and economically diverse. Plus there’s a lot at stake: Founded partly by LKAB in 1900, the city of 18,000 supplies the European Union with 90% of its iron. “There might be some concerns, but the mine has to keep operating,“ a resident says. It’s not a first, either: Cities have been relocated before for economic or safety reasons, and other towns are considering moves over climate change, the New York Times notes. Only possible problem for Kiruna? “Iron is under the new town center, too,“ admits a city official. “[But] it will be too expensive for LKAB to move the city again.“


►   Guy Attempts Suicide by Jumping in Lion Cage

Two lions were killed after they severely mauled a man who stripped naked and entered their enclosure in an apparent suicide attempt early Saturday in Chile, the AP reports. The man—identified by the Guardian as Franco Luis Ferrada, 20—was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and was said to be in grave condition. Director Alejandra Montalba of Santiago’s Metropolitan Zoo told local media the park was crowded with visitors at the time of the incident. Ferrada broke into the enclosure, took off his clothes, and jumped into the middle, horrifying other visitors who witnessed the attack. The lions initially ignored Ferrada, but attacked when he taunted them.

Zookeepers first hosed down the lions, then fired tranquilizer darts at them but hit Ferrada in the neck instead, per the Guardian; Montalba says there were no tranquilizers handy. Either way, an employee ended the attack by opening fire and killing the two animals before the horrified crowd. “The zoo has an established protocol because people’s lives are very important to us,“ says Montalba. Ferrada suffered injuries to his head and pelvis, and an apparent suicide note was found in the man’s clothing, says a parks official. Witness reported he also made religious proclamations. Chilean officials describe the man as “frustrated,“ CNN reports.


►   2 Climbers MIA as Mt. Everest Turns Deadly

Two Indian climbers have gone missing on Mount Everest, an expedition organizer said Sunday, a day after two deaths from apparent altitude sickness, underscoring the risks on the world’s highest mountain. Paresh Nath and Goutam Ghosh have been missing since Saturday, said Wangchu Sherpa of the Trekking Camp Nepal agency. They were last seen near the Everest summit. Two of their companions who fell sick were being helped down the mountain. About 30 climbers have developed frostbite or become sick near the summit in recent days. Most of the sick climbers suffered frostbite while attempting to reach the summit or on their descent, Mountaineering Department official Gyanendra Shrestha said. Favorable weather has allowed nearly 400 climbers to reach the summit since May 11, but the altitude, weather, and harsh terrain can cause problems at any time.

Several Sherpas carried one sick climber from the highest camp, at nearly 26,240 feet, to Camp 2, at 21,000 feet, where attempts were being made to pick her up with a helicopter, said Pemba Sherpa of the Seven Summit Treks agency. Seema Goshwami of India had frostbite to her hands and feet at the South Col camp and was unable to move. “It took a big and risky effort, but we were able to save her,“ Pemba Sherpa said, adding that an Iranian climber identified only as S. Hadi had been brought to Kathmandu and was recovering in a hospital. A Norwegian woman, 45-year-old Siv Harstad, suffered snow blindness and was helped down from the summit Saturday. The two climbers who died were on the same expedition team. It was undecided when and if their bodies will be brought down, Pasang Phurba of Seven Summits said. Carrying bodies down Everest takes at least eight Sherpas, since they become frozen and heavier. The two deaths were the first confirmed this year on Everest. Dutch climber Eric Arnold, 35, complained of weakness and died Friday night near South Col before he was able to get to a lower altitude. Just hours after, Australian climber Maria Strydom also showed signs of altitude sickness Saturday afternoon before she died.


►   EgyptAir Jet Was Graffitied Ominously 2 Years Ago

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi says a submarine is en route to the crash site of EgyptAir Flight 804 to search for the black boxes, but the New York Times reports that the airline had long suffered from security threats stemming from Egypt’s political turmoil—including, ominously, a graffitied threat referring to Sissi himself on the very aircraft that went down Thursday in the Mediterranean. “We will bring this plane down,“ read the threat, which the Times calls an “eerie coincidence,“ but which also referenced the last two letters of the plane’s registration number, SU-GCC, as a phonetic play on Sissi’s last name. Someone also scrawled “traitor” and “murderer” in the incident two years ago; the graffiti was blamed on workers at Cairo’s airport and the nation’s unrest, rather than a specific terrorist threat.

Threat or not, EgyptAir was among many of the nation’s businesses forced to clean house of employees with extremist viewpoints and implement new security measures, especially, the Times notes, after a Russian plane crashed late last year. Among those measures were crew searches and adding security guards to flights; three such guards were aboard the downed flight, raising the possibility that those measures may not have been sufficient. The AP notes that security at Paris’ main airport, where Flight 804 originated, is tight, but, as one expert puts it, “ the infinitely perfect does not exist.“ Egypt and France are investigating the crash jointly.


►   Cops’ Naked Crime Scene Sculpture Doesn’t Go Over Well

“I like a joke as much as the next person, but this is a family beach event.“ So says a town councilor in the UK, adding that “it’s trivializing quite a serious matter.“ The offense in question was a risqué sand sculpture, but the offender was none other than a local police department, reports the BBC. It seems that the Truro Police Department decided to enter the Cornwall Beach Games sandcastle-building competition, but with a questionable “crime scene” entry that featured a naked female murder victim with a spade sticking out of her back, adds the Plymouth Herald.

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That apparently wasn’t the only lapse in judgment going around, because their entry won first place. But when officials trumpeted their victory on social media, well, reaction was mixed and they ended up issuing an apology. “I think there’s a level of sexual stereotyping with the large bottom and the large breasts. Police have been working really hard to break down barriers on reporting sex crimes and I don’t think this image really helps their cause,“ the councilor says. Says a police rep: “If any offence has been cause by the nature of the sculpture, this was never intended and we apologise for that.“

Hidden Promise Program Adds Eleven to List of Graduates

GLENVILLE, WV - Eleven Glenville State College Hidden Promise Scholars (HPS) were recognized as graduates of the Hidden Promise program at a ceremony held shortly before the end of the spring semester. The students, Casey Burdette, Tyler Fortney, Samantha Fulks, Autumn Harkins, Levi Lynch, Quentin Murphy, Ben Neal, Joseph Overbaugh, Bobbie Payne, Ben Stingo, and Allison Taylor, all completed their GSC degrees at the conclusion of the academic year.

GSC President Dr. Peter Barr welcomed the students and congratulated them on their accomplishments. “We acknowledge the hard work and stamina that will entitle your membership in an exclusive and privileged society of college degree attainment. I say ‘exclusive’ because in central West Virginia only one-in-ten residents holds that membership and in the nation barely four-of-ten is a member. I say ‘privileged’ because that degree will entitle added opportunities. Over a lifetime you will earn more, enjoy greater job satisfaction, stay healthier, and live longer - that’s what the data shows. I would hope that the Hidden Promise program has been instrumental in your achievement,” said Barr.

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May 2016 HPS Graduates: (l-r) Quentin Murphy, Autumn Harkins, Joseph Overbaugh,
Samantha Fulks, Tyler Fortney, Bobbie Payne, Ben Stingo, Allison Taylor, Levi Lynch,
Casey Burdette, and Ben Neal


Following a special dinner in their honor, the students gave brief remarks recalling their times at GSC and in the Hidden Promise program.


Casey Burdette, from Clay, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies Education. In his comments he expressed thanks to President and Mrs. Barr and the faculty and staff in GSC’s Education Department. He counted the trip he and other scholars took to Cincinnati as one of his favorite memories of his time in the program. After leaving GSC he plans to teach at a middle or high school and pursue a Master’s Degree.


Tyler Fortney, from Elkins, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. He thanked the faculty and noted that he was a seventh generation graduate from Glenville State College. Fortney counted the many people he had met and the friends that he made through the HPS program as one of his favorite things about being a Hidden Promise Scholar. He plans to attend law school after graduation.


Samantha Fulks, from Millstone, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics Education (5-adult). During her time at GSC she served on the Student Government Association and was president of Chi Beta Phi, the national math and science honor society, where she represented GSC at two national conventions. In her comments at the dinner she recounted her last trip to Myrtle Beach with other members of the Hidden Promise Scholars Program as one of her favorite parts of the program. She also extended thanks to Associate Professors Larry Baker (her uncle) and Paul Peck, her parents, and her sister. After graduation she plans to begin teaching in West Virginia.


Autumn Harkins, from Grantsville, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. During her college career she was a member of Chi Beta Phi, the national math and science honor society, was vice president of the Behavioral Science Club, and was a mentor for the Hidden Promise Scholars program. She told those in attendance that her favorite part about being in the program were the trips and the opportunity to be a mentor to high school students. She plans to pursue a Master’s in Social Work after graduation.


Levi Lynch, from Creston, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. During his comments to the attendees of the dinner he thanked the faculty and staff in the Fine Arts Department and counted the cultural trips as his favorite part of the Hidden Promise Scholars program. After graduation he plans to work in the recording industry.


Quentin Murphy, from Mount Zion, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art. While at GSC he worked in the Admissions Office as a Student Ambassador, worked as a Resident Assistant for three years, served as Vice President of the Art Society, was Public Relations Executive for the Student Government Association, and was a member of Pioneers for A Cause among his involvement in other campus activities. He extended his thanks to many campus staff members who helped teach and mentor him. Murphy has accepted a position in the Admissions Office at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi.


Benjamin Neal, from Mount Nebo, West Virginia, graduated with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music Education and Music. In his time at GSC he participated in a variety of ensembles including marching and concert band, concert choir, woodwind ensemble, sax quartet, sax choir, jazz band, jazz combo, chamber singers, and percussion ensemble. He was also secretary for GSC’s chapter of the National Association for Music Education for two years. In his comments he thanked President and Mrs. Barr for welcoming the students to their home for pizza parties and said his favorite thing about the Hidden Promise Program were the end-of-year trips. Neal also thanked Assistant Professors Lloyd Bone and Teresa Dody. He plans on teaching in West Virginia for a few years and then continuing his education.


Joseph Overbaugh, from Mount Zion, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Science Education and Chemistry. During his time at GSC, he was a member of Chi Beta Phi, the American Chemical Society, and the Student Government Association. He explained to those in attendance how he enjoyed getting to graduate with three of his friends from Calhoun County. Overbaugh plans to pursue a career in science education after graduation.


Bobbie Payne, from Webster Springs, West Virginia, graduated with a Regents Bachelor of Arts degree. She worked as a summer camp counselor for the Hidden Promise Scholars Program and served as President of the Behavioral Science Club during her time at GSC. At the dinner she recalled fond memories of the special trips that she and the other scholars took. After graduation she plans on moving, exploring more job opportunities, and starting the next chapter of her life.


Ben Stingo, from Buckhannon, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education. During his college career, Stingo was a member of many musical ensembles, his favorite being the GSC Tuba and Euphonium Ensemble. As a Hidden Promise Scholar, he enjoyed the trip to Myrtle Beach during his junior year. After graduation he plans to pursue a master’s in trombone performance and then a doctorate. He hopes to teach trombone at a college level or to teach music in a public school.


Allison Taylor, from Bickmore, West Virginia, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. During her time at GSC she served as Student Government President and was secretary of the Art Club. She also participated in the ROTC program. Taylor said her favorite part of the program were the cultural trips, the pizza parties, and making many new friends. She now plans to attend Marshall University and obtain a Ph.D. in psychology.


In addition to accepting a plaque and commemorative class ring, the new graduates also inscribed the Hidden Promise Book. In signing the volume, graduates commit to ‘always accepting the obligations and the challenges of guiding the young to education, knowledge, and love of the human spirit; to demonstrate respect for all people, and cultivate the trained, yet free, minds appropriate to sustaining and advancing a democratic way of life; and to striving to become knowledgeable, ethical, caring citizens who embody the qualities that the Hidden Promise program fosters.’ The students became official GSC graduates on Saturday, May 7 after GSC’s Commencement Ceremony.

The Hidden Promise Scholars program is a component of GSC’s Hidden Promise Consortium. The program is an alliance between Glenville State College and county school districts throughout West Virginia and in Ohio and Connecticut aimed at improving communication between higher education and teachers, staff, and students in grades eight through 12. Other goals include increasing the number of high school and college graduates as well as aligning the curricula of K-12 and higher education.

Students are often inducted into the program while still in high school after being chosen by their school counselors, teachers, and principals. The scholars mentor with current college students and take part in campus visits and annual summer camps. Upon high school graduation, HPS students who opt to attend GSC receive a $1,000 scholarship which is renewable annually throughout their enrollment as a full-time student.

For more information on the GSC Hidden Promise Scholars Program, contact Program Director Teresa Sterns at or 304.462.6100.

West Virginia Ranks Fourth in the Nation in FAFSA Completion Rates

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CHARLESTON, WV – According to a 0recent announcement from the National College Access Network (NCAN), West Virginia is one of only four states to see gains in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates so far this year. And the state ranks fourth overall nationally in FAFSA completion — jumping up from 10th place last year. 

Thirty-seven high schools in West Virginia met or exceeded the state’s spring benchmark for increasing the number of 12th graders who complete the FAFSA, the primary application for state and federal financial aid for college. In January, the College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) set a goal of ensuring that 60 percent of West Virginia high school seniors complete the form by September 1. As of May 6 (the most recent date for which data is available), 52 percent of West Virginia 12th graders had completed a FAFSA. 

“Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps in pursuing higher education,” Brian Weingart, Senior Director for Financial Aid at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission) and West Virginia Community and Technical College System (WVCTCS), said. “By completing this one form, students can be considered to receive thousands of dollars in grants — that’s ‘free money’ that you don’t have to pay back.”

Nationally, researchers and policy leaders have recognized that increasing the number of students who complete the FAFSA is a proven strategy for increasing college-going rates, as cost and affordability are leading factors influencing students’ decisions to pursue postsecondary education. 

“Applying for financial aid can be a little overwhelming and sometimes students simply don’t realize they could qualify for aid,” Dr. Adam Green, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the Commission, said. “Submitting the FAFSA and receiving a financial aid award letter can be a game changer — suddenly college doesn’t seem so far out of reach.” 

To ensure more students reach this crucial milestone, the Commission, WVCTCS, and college and university partners across the state have been working with high school counselors and administrators and community partners to increase awareness of the FAFSA and help students and families complete the form.

Students can complete the FAFSA any time after January 01 in the year they intend to go to college. Filing the FAFSA allows students to be considered for the Federal Pell Grant, which this year provided students with up to $5,815 to cover the cost of tuition and other education expenses. Students who filed the form before April 15 will also be considered for up to $2,700 through the West Virginia Higher Education Grant Program. Additionally, completing the FAFSA is a requirement of applying for state scholarship programs, including the PROMISE Scholarship. More information about these programs and other financial aid opportunities is available at cfwv.com, the state’s free college-planning website.  

The following high schools met or exceeded West Virginia’s 2016 FAFSA completion spring benchmark of ensuring 55 percent of students complete a FAFSA by April 15:

  • Bishop Donahue Memorial High School
  • Bluefield High School
  • Bridgeport High School
  • Cameron High School
  • Cross Lanes Christian School
  • East Hardy High School
  • Frankfort High School
  • George Washington High School
  • Greenbrier East High School
  • Hedgesville High School
  • Hundred High School
  • Hurricane High School
  • Jefferson High School
  • Keyser High School
  • Magnolia High School
  • Mingo Central High School
  • Nicholas County High School
  • Paden City High School
  • Paw Paw High School
  • Pendleton County High School
  • Petersburg High School
  • Pocahontas County High School
  • Ravenswood High School
  • Ripley High School
  • Ritchie County High School
  • Roane County High School
  • Sissonville High School
  • Tug Valley High School
  • Tyler Consolidated High School
  • University High School
  • Valley High School – Fayette County
  • Wahama High School
  • Washington High School
  • Webster County High School
  • Williamstown High School
  • Winfield High School
  • Wirt County High School 

A complete list of FAFSA completion rates by high school is available at www.cfwvconnect.com/financial-aid-outreach .

CFWV is a college- and career-planning outreach initiative led by the Commission in collaboration with WVCTCS, the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts. 

G-ICYMI™: 50 Years Ago, Team From Tiny Normantown High Set Still-Standing International Record

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Big accomplishments can come from small high schools, as Homer Hickam and his Rocket Boys from Big Creek High School in War, McDowell County, proved in winning the National Science Fair in 1960.

As alumni from Normantown High School, a like-sized, also-defunct school in Gilmer County at the other end of the state from War, gather for the Class of 1966’s 50th reunion on Saturday, some will likely remember hearing their parents talk about the school’s David versus Goliath championship season of 1945. The one when their 150-person student body produced a basketball team that captured the all-class state championship with a 50-49 win over Logan.

But in 1966, the tiny West Virginia high school produced a team that took top honors at an international competition in an event a bit slower-paced and lower-profile than basketball. In the process of doing so, the Normantown High team racked up a score that remains unbeaten today.

The event was the International Land and Range Judging Contest, held near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. There, contestants determine soil types and their water absorbing properties, estimate slope and erosion potentials, and determine what crops, mechanical treatments and fertilizer applications are most appropriate for farming the land.

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Normantown High School FFA members Kenneth Lee Greenlief (from left), Kelley Sponaugle, Brock Stewart and
Wesley Dobbins flank their coach and vo-ag teacher Everett “Casey” Mason after winning
the International Land and Range Judging contest in Oklahoma in 1966, posting a score that remains unbeaten today.


Contestants also pick out the best home site on the property being judged, identify rangeland plants,and determine how to best manage the rangeland for wildlife or livestock.

“Looking back, it seems like a very short time ago that we were taking this trip to Oklahoma City,” said Kelley Sponaugle, one of four members of Normantown High’s championship Future Farmers of America land judging team. “The one vivid memory is of the five of us (including FFA adviser and vo-ag teacher Everett “Casey” Mason) and our luggage packed in a Ford Falcon for two days each way.

“At that time it was my longest trip from Cedarville. I was amazed at the size of our country and the vast size of the cornfields of the Midwest.”

Mason, who coached the land judging team, “was a wonderful teacher,” recalled teammate Wesley Dobbins. “Through pure and simple hard, honest work, which he demanded, he was very successful in bringing the Normantown High School FFA chapter much recognition.”

“Being his student is without a doubt the greatest educational experience in my life,” Sponaugle said. “He truly believed success could be found through hard work and doing it right. Because of his encouragement, we believed we could win.”

Sponaugle said Mason assembled a support team that included Soil Conservation Service staffers Junior Kennedy and Woodrow Beverage, who helped provide the Normantown FFA team with enhanced soil and conservation knowledge, and George Sharpe, a soils specialist with the WVU Extension Service, who made several trips to Gilmer County to help train the students and met the team in Oklahoma City to help its members get acquainted with the local terrain.

Dobbins, Sponaugle and teammates Kenneth Greenlief and Brock Stewart won the state land judging competition in the spring of 1965 to qualify for the trip to Oklahoma City the following spring.

“We were four country boys who had never been far from home,” Dobbins said. “As we traveled, we kept seeing on the breakfast menu ‘hash browns.’ None of the four of us knew what they were. One morning, we decided to take a chance and order them. To our surprise, we got fried potatoes!”

“We arrived in Oklahoma City a couple days early,” Sponaugle recalled. “Mr. Mason had arranged for us to practice at a local ranch and at the Oklahoma State University farms. We spent from daylight to dark looking at various soils in the area and going over study materials. Mr. Mason was a strong believer in work, so that’s what we did.

“But we did go to a movie, Marilyn Monroe in ‘Some Like it Hot.’ That was my first trip to an indoor movie theater. The movie would probably be rated G or PG by today’s standards, but we thought it was really hot and sexy.”

The contest took place in a short grass prairie outside of Oklahoma City.

“The area had several large ravine-type gullies, and the soils there developed in windblown materials and were very erosive,” Sponaugle recalled. “After the contest, the judges reviewed the fields with us. I remember telling Mr. Mason and Dr. Sharpe that I thought I had made a perfect score on all four fields. They both thought I was crazy, since nobody had come close to that in the 15-year history of the contest.”

Teammate Brock Stewart also believed he had aced the contest, according to Sponaugle.

“At the banquet that night, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat,” he said. “The anticipation was intense.”

The combined individual scores of the top three team members determined the team winners. The awards announcement began by naming the 10 highest-scoring individual land judges, starting with the 10th place finalist.

“By the time they got down to No. 3, none of us had been called and I thought we had blown it,” Sponaugle recounted. “Then they announced Kenny Lee Greenlief from Normantown, West Virginia, at No. 3, with a score of 237 points, and finally, tied for individual high score, Brock Stewart and Kelley Sponaugle from Normantown with 240 points,” both perfect scores, for the first time in contest history.

While other West Virginia FFA teams have since won the event — most recently, Tyler County High in 2011 and 2013 — the Normantown team was the first to score more than 700 points in the history of the contest, and the team score of 717 points out of a possible 720 remains the highest score in contest history.

Sponaugle went on to compete on WVU’s soil judging team and pursued a career in soil science, recently retiring as assistant state conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Greenlief, who earned a master’s degree in education administration at WVU and went on to become executive vice president and treasurer of Waco Oil & Gas, died in 2006.

Dobbins is a retired Braxton County elementary school principal and Stewart pursued a career in the natural gas business.

The team’s victory at Oklahoma City 50 years ago “is a great example of a high school in West Virginia with fewer than 200 students doing something outstanding,” said Dennis Bennett of Craigsville, president of Normantown High School Alumni Association.

Normantown High graduated its last class of seniors in 1968 and was converted into Normantown Elementary School, which in turn will be closed at the end of the current school year due to consolidation.

A 50th reunion celebration for the high school’s Class of 1966 took place last Saturday at the school.

~~  Rick Steelhammer - Gazette-Mail ~~

05.23.2016
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Mr Mason was quite a teacher of Landjudging, all three of my children were 4-H National winners also, he will never be forgotten!

By susie kirkpatrick  on  05.23.2016

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Local Author Comes to Glenville for Book Signing - Today

The Free Press WV

A local man seems to have found a new calling, writing. Growing up and spending his whole life living in the Flatwoods area, the town is buzzing about his new book, The Janitor.

The Janitor, written by Tim Cogar, is easy to read, even for those that don’t read much.  It’s fast paced enough to keep people that don’t like to read, wanting to start the next chapter.

It’s a simple fiction book with a slant toward the Christian side, but don’t let that fool you, as most everybody will identify with the books characters.

The story is set in a small town, much like many in central West Virginia, and follows a small town preacher and some of his colorful members. 

Tim will be at the Gil Co Faith Pharmacy on Monday, May 23rd from 3 to 5 PM to talk with people and sign books.

For more information go to his website:  www.timcogar.com.

Taking Action to Keep Our Kids Tobacco-Free

Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., taking almost half a million lives every year. Every death caused by tobacco is preventable. Progress has been made but new threats to our nation’s health have emerged, so we’re taking the next logical step to protect our kids from the dangers of tobacco.

In 2009, a bipartisan Congressional act entrusted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products in order to protect public health. Last week, we finalized a rule that extends FDA authority to regulate ALL tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah, and cigars. Under federal law, retailers will no longer be able to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, or other covered tobacco products to anyone under age 18 and all tobacco sales to those 26 and under will require a photo ID. Going forward, the FDA will be able to review and regulate new tobacco products before they hit store shelves.

Watch Secretary Burwell talk about this historic step that will help us improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco.

In West Virginia….

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►   Free workshop on Tuesday could help trucker’s avoided failed inspection

CLARKSBURG, WV — Truck drivers, maintenance professionals, and other members of the trucking industry will have a chance at a free crash course in truck inspections ahead of the annual 72-hour Roadcheck Inspection Blitz.

Jan Vineyard with the West Virginia Trucking Association said it’s a chance for anyone in the trucking industry to get a refresher lesson or two on safety inspections.

“What we’re aiming to do at these two workshops at 10 o’clock and 1 o’clock is to provide those safety directors–those maintenance people that work on truck–kind of a preview to see exactly what an inspection looks like,” she said Monday morning on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The blitz will result in more than 45,000 inspections. Around 9,000 of those inspections–or 20 percent–will reveal infractions that could place the truck out of service.

“A lot of safety directors are signed up to come,” she said. “Also some maintenance people. We’re hoping they come. They watch through this. Then they go back and work with their drivers. Because ultimately the driver is in charge of the truck.”

The WVTA and the Public Service Commission will co-host the training at the Meadowbrook Rest Stop located at mile marker 123 on I-79.

“We’re hoping, roughly, we’re going to train 60 people tomorrow,” she said. “And we’re hoping those 60 will go back and do everyone in their shops where they work.”

Vineyard said West Virginia truckers should be ready for the blitz when it begins next month.

“We in West Virginia, our trucking companies, will be prepared for the Safety Blitz,” she said.

Sessions will last between 60 and 90 minutes with time allotted for questions.

Space for the free workshop is limited, and participants are asked to confirm their attendance by e-mailing or by contacting the WVTA office at 304.345.2800.


►   With second lawsuit filed, Fayette Commissioner believes parents tired of waiting for SBA solution

FAYETTEVILLE, WV — Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender, the Fayette County Commission, and two parents in Fayette County are hoping a lawsuit against the State Board of Education and the School Building Authority will spur action in finding a remedy for the crumbling school facilities in the county.

“Our citizens are just simply not willing to step back and hope for a good outcome with the SBA,” Wender said.

The lawsuit, the second one filed by Mountain State Justice on behalf of Fayette Count, will seek to convince a judge that the SBA should fund the previously rejected 2015 Comprehensive Facilities Plan.

Shortly after the new year began, the School Building Authority and Fayette County Superintendent of Schools Terry George began working together to find a solution to the myriad problems facing schools in the region.

Wender said he is hopeful that the outcome of that partnership will bear fruit, but said many in the county aren’t willing to put all of their eggs in one basket.

“How aggressively it will be pursued, I guess, will depend in large part about how confident the folks of Fayette County are about the progress we are making with the SBA,” he said.

Fayette County schools have been under state control for six years, but Wender said the situation has only gotten worse during that time because of an inability to find a solution to the facilities problem. That partially resulted in the relocation of students and the closure of Collins Middle School last year.

“Yes, the state did need to step in when they did and take over our school system,” he said. “But the state has done a very poor job of managing–to say nothing about improving the delivery of education in Fayette County.”

Last summer, the residents of Fayette County rejected a bond issue that would have led to the closure of a number of schools. Shortly after, new superintendent Terry George attempted to come up with a Comprehensive Facilities Plan to propose to the School Building Authority.

The proposal the SBA rejected last year asked for close to $40 million dollars over a three year period and was eventually rejected by the School Building Authority–and not without controversy along the way.

Wender said the losses in the coal industry, high taxes, and a number of other issues have contributed to the economic downturn in Fayette County–just one of the many reasons voters said no to a bond issue last summer.

“[SBA] gave no consideration to the fact that the economic situation in Fayette County is declining and deteriorating rather rapidly,” Wender said.

The SBA and representatives from the schools in Fayette County are currently in a data collection stage and hope to have a plan ready in time for presentation to the full board this Fall. According to Wender, there isn’t a lot of faith among Fayette County parents at the moment.

“Fayette County has been under state control,” Wender said. “We are in our sixth year now. During that time, there have been three state superintendent of schools. The state, of course, hires our superintendent in Fayette County, and we’ve had four superintendents.”

“The delivery of education, test scores have declined over this period of time rapidly,” he said. “And the deterioration of the facilities has declined rather rapidly as well.”

The SBA rejected the Fayette County CFP last year in part because of prohibitive cost, concern over matching funding, and protests from the Meadow Bridge community. Parents there were concerned about not only losing the only high school in the community, but also long travel times students would deal with at a new high school.

A special meeting for the Board of Education will be held Monday, May 23 at 6 PM at Oak Hill High School.


►   Legislative audit on DOH comp time payouts raises concern

CHARLESTON, WV — A legislative audit has raised a red flag on compensation time payouts from the state Division of Highways.

In 2014, the DOH paid over $242,000 in a comp time buyout to nearly 100 of its employees who racked up about 6,200 hours of comp time, but Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred said the spending of that state money “wasn’t required by law.”

“We don’t know who is telling the truth here. We don’t know whether DOH was told by the state Auditor that it couldn’t handle comp time or whether DOH is telling us incorrectly that that’s the case,” Allred said.

But state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox told lawmakers Thursday morning the payouts were legal. He said they were complete after the DOH was told the state’s new wvOASIS payroll system, KRONOS, would not calculate comp time.

Mattox said he talked to a lot of experts in the agency before making the decision.

“Based upon my legal division, business manager and my human resources division, a policy was developed to do away, change the policies so that compensatory time would no longer be allowed,” he said.

Allred said the comp time payments didn’t have to take place.

“This was unnecessary,” he said. “These were people, a lot of them making $80,000, $90,000, $100,000 a year that comp time was not required by federal law to be paid to in the first place.”

The state Auditor indicated no other buyouts by state agencies, to his knowledge, have occurred other than the buyout at DOH.

The legislative auditor’s letter to legislative leaders is below:

Dear Mr. President and Mr. Speaker:

It has recently come to my attention that in 2014 the Division of Highways (DOH) initiated a payout of all DOH employees’ compensatory time.  This resulted in 99 employees being paid a total of $242,778.11.  The top three payouts were for a Highway District Engineer/Manager ($10,678.15); the former Equipment Division Director/Executive Assistant to the Agency Head ($10,056.46); and the Deputy Secretary ($9,596.05).  It must be noted that this is the same former Equipment Division Director that was indicted on 29 federal offenses in 2015.  Along with the compensatory time buyout, DOH policy was modified to eliminate the ability to earn compensatory time in the future.  According to the Secretary of Transportation/Commissioner of Highways: 

…the previous policy was changed in preparation for the wvOASIS payroll implementation. The DOH was advised that the new payroll system, called KRONOS, would not accommodate the earning or use of compensatory time. As a result of the inability of KRONOS to track the earning and use of compensatory time, the DOH policy was changed to eliminate compensatory time entirely.

The assessment of KRONOS’ inability to track compensatory time is incorrect according to the ERP Project Director who oversees wvOasis and KRONOS.  He stated: 

…the KRONOS application is capable of and has been configured to allow for the earning or use of compensatory time.  The wvOASIS application has been configured to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for non-exempt employees and allow for various agency desired flexibilities for FLSA exempt classification employees.

The Director of the Joint Committee on Government and Finance’s Fiscal Office stated that her understanding of how compensatory time is calculated and paid by KRONOS is the same as described by the wvOasis ERP Project Director.  However, since Joint Expenses is not utilizing KRONOS, the Joint Committee has not tested the compensatory time calculations, and our understanding is based solely on information provided by wvOASIS during the various trainingsessions.

Additionally, the design specification for compensatory time was recommended by the WV ERP Steering Committee which includes the Secretary of Transportation or his designee. This design specification is for 1.5 hours of compensatory time for each hour over 40 hours in a workweek for non-exempt employees. Compensatory time for exempt employees will accrue at the rate authorized by the agency and may not exceed 240 or 480 hours depending upon FLSA rules.

Regarding the DOH compensatory buyout, the State Auditor added: 

…any compensatory time buyouts were unnecessary and a discretionary decision made by the agency or agencies, as the new system is fully capable of handling the recording of compensatory time balances earned in other legacy leave systems and accounting for its later usage within wvOASIS HRM/Payroll.

The State Auditor indicated he has no knowledge of buyouts by state agencies other than the DOH buyout.  Thus, my office also concludes that the $242,778 payout of DOH employees was an unnecessary expense by the Division of Highways.  Attached to this letter is the full correspondence from the Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Transportation, the wvOasis ERP Director, and the State Auditor. 

Sincerely,

Aaron Allred


►   New study calls into question long-term economic benefits of Mountain Valley Pipeline

A study commissioned by community groups in eight counties in West Virginia and Virginia finds significant costs to local economies in the EQT Mountain Valley Pipeline construction project that they feel the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) overlooked.

Dr. Spencer Phillips, principal at Key-Log Economics, was one of seven presenters who felt the study showed significant cost to economic vitality of the communities in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

“FERC’s approval process for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is really a rigged game economically because the agency’s procedures themselves as well as their track record mean that they ignore some really important economic costs to people in communities along the path of interstate natural gas transmission lines,” Phillips said in a tele-conference Wednesday morning.

An economic analysis by FTI Consulting, based on information provided by EQT, shows that the pipeline project could create between 4200 and 4500 direct and indirect jobs at it’s peak, bring in $25.8 million in state and local tax on production and imports, and create over $400 million in employee compensation.

Dr. Phillips said, contrary to a report by real estate valuation service Integra Realty Resources, property value loss is likely.

“We estimate a one-time loss in property value of between 42 and 53 million dollars,” he said. “That’s for people in the right of way and people in the evacuation zone, which is about 1.4 miles wide for a pipeline of this size and operated at the pressure that’s expected.”

Leslee McCarty of the Greenbrier River Watershed Association believes that this may have had an impact on one of her neighbors in the Greenbrier County area.

“He had had a piece of property up for sale, and they were about to close on it, but when the pipeline specter appeared he had to disclose that and he lost the sale of his property,” McCarty said. “I wonder how many times that has happened. It’s hard to quantify that.”

McCarty believes that the pipeline would disrupt some of Greenbrier County’s most valuable assets: tourism, travel, and small business.

“If you look at the summary for Greenbrier County, and speaking about what’s important economically in Greenbrier County, we see that entrepreneurs and small business owners are a large part of what’s driving the economy as well as travel and tourism,” she said.

McCarty also believes that West Virginia would be better off seeking cleaner, renewable energy instead of relying on additional fossil fuel production.

“Coal is on it’s way out, supposedly,” she said. “Supposedly natural gas is some bridge to the future, but these are both fossil fuels. These pipelines–I think of them as enablers–to keep us on the drip of fossil fuels.”

Dr. Phillips claims that net losses in economic vitality could range up to $114 million per year–and eventually cumulatively reach billions of dollars of losses for local area communities.

“FERC really needs to consider when it is determining whether or not there is any net public benefit that could stem from the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” he said.

The Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) coalition of community groups commissioned this independent research.

In West Virginia, the pipeline would run through the counties of Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Summers, and Monroe.

Construction is set to begin in December.

EQT released the following statement in response to the study.

“We remain confident that the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline project will bring significant and meaningful benefits to counties along its route in both Virginia and West Virginia. A broad, bipartisan coalition of public officials, residents, companies, and pro-business groups support the Mountain Valley Pipeline because of its significant economic benefits. FTI Consulting, a highly regarded international consulting firm, has estimated the project will generate thousands of jobs during construction, lifting local and regional economies, and the project will provide local and state governments with millions in additional annual tax revenue. Similar to a study released by this same group last year, we recognize that opponents of the MVP project have been challenging the results of our economic benefits analysis since its initial release in December 2014; therefore, the findings that are outlined in a critique that was funded by opponents are to be expected.

Lastly, it is important to note that the 2014 FTI studies were reviewed by independent economists in Virginia and West Virginia; and the IMPLAN model utilized for MVP’s analysis is widely recognized as the industry standard for economic analysis modeling, and is also widely used in the legal and regulatory system. Furthermore, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Integra Realty Resources (IRR) found the presence of a pipeline does not affect home values or insurability. The IRR study was submitted to the FERC in a follow-up data response.”


►   Lawmakers ready for second week of special session

CHARLESTON, WV — Work to fill the state’s $270 million budget hole continues in a special session Monday and Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell,18) says members of the House of Delegates need to work together to come up with a solution.

Sobonya said state residents are looking to the legislature for a way out of the state’s current budget crisis.

“I’m taking the initiative on behalf of my constituents to do the best job I can to make sure that the priorities of the people are going to be recognized and I challenge each of you to do the same,” she told members of the House during a Friday floor session.

Democrats in the House are looking to amend the tobacco tax bill to make it a $1 dollar per pack increase in the cigarette tax instead of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed 45-cent per pack increase.

The state Senate passed the 45-cent increase last week. The measure would also bring the tax on smokeless and chewing tobacco from 7 percent to 12 percent and establish a tax on e-cigarettes.

Also, delegates hope to look at a list of proposed budget cuts crafted by the House Finance Committee.

Sobonya said although she’s not a member of the Finance Committee, she took the initiative to put calls out to state agencies for a reason.

“When the buck stops with me and my constituents, they’re going to look to me and say ‘Did you do everything you could do to turn over every rock, leave no stone unturned to make sure that we have the leanest government that we can ever have before we dip into the pockets of the taxpayers?‘” she said.

Sobonya cited the decline of the coal industry and “the failure” of previous leadership with budget problems lawmakers are continuing to sort out, but said she knows they’re “up to the task.”

“We are going to be able to lead,” she said. “I hope that we can do it as a team.”

The House floor session will begin at 11 a.m.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

WHY TALIBAN LEADER’S DEATH IS SEEN AS HOPEFUL SIGN

Some view the killing of Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour as a game-changer in efforts to end the long insurgent war plaguing Afghanistan.


WHAT OBAMA LOOKS TO ACCOMPLISH IN ASIA

The president arrives in Vietnam intent on building stronger economic and security ties with Asian-Pacific allies nervous about the rise of China.


IRAQ LAUNCHES OPERATION TO RETAKE IS-HELD CITY OF FALLUJAH

Iraqi forces are “approaching a moment of great victory” against the extremist group, Prime Minister al-Abadi says announcing the move.


CLINTON SHRUGS TRUMP’S PERSONAL ATTACKS

“I don’t care what he says about me, but I do resent what he says about other people, other successful women, who have worked hard, who have done their part,“ she says.


EGYPT SENDS SUBMARINE TO HUNT FOR CRASHED JET’S BLACK BOXES

Meanwhile, hundreds of Coptic Christian mourners fill a church in Cairo to pray for their relatives among the dead.


FIRST BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARD GOES TO THE WEEKND

The night’s top nominee dedicates it to Prince, saying that the music legend will always be an inspiration for him.


ABSENTEE BALLOT COUNT TO DECIDE AUSTRIAN ELECTION

The presidential polls are too close to call a winner between a right-wing politician and a challenger whose views stand in stark opposition to his rival’s anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic message.


VERDICT EXPECTED MONDAY IN FREDDIE GRAY-OFFICER TRIAL

Prosecutors say Edward Nero unlawfully arrested Gray without probable cause and was negligent when he didn’t buckle the prisoner into a seat belt.


SONYA SOTOMAYOR’S ADVICE FOR GRADUATES

The U.S. Supreme Court Justice advises the class of 2016 at the University of Rhode Island to hold onto the memories they’ve created and learn from their mistakes.


WHO WINS PALME D’OR AT CANNES

British director Ken Loach receives his second award at the Cannes Film Festival for “I, Daniel Blake” - a portrayal of a disabled man’s struggle with the crushing benefits system in England.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   10 States With the Most Student Debt

The average American college student owed $28,950 at graduation in 2014—but students in some states are even worse off. 24/7 Wall St. rounds up the top 10 states with the most student debt on average—based on 2014 numbers from the Institute for College Access and Success—noting states with higher median household incomes tend to have a higher debts.

  1. Delaware, $33,808
  2. New Hampshire, $33,410
  3. Pennsylvania, $33,264
  4. Rhode Island, $31,841
  5. Minnesota, $31,579
  6. Maine, $30,908
  7. Connecticut, $29,750
  8. Iowa, $29,732
  9. Michigan, $29,450
  10. Alabama, $29,425

Click for the FULL LIST or consider moving to Berlin.


►   Oklahoma Governor Vetoes Bill Criminalizing Performing Abortions

Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Fallin on Friday vetoed legislation that would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion, a measure that would have effectively outlawed the procedure in the state, the AP reports. In vetoing the measure, Fallin said it was vague and would not withstand a legal challenge. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Nathan Dahm, said the measure was aimed at ultimately overturning Roe v. Wade. The bill would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, including doctors. Lawmakers can still attempt a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

The bill, which abortion-rights group Center for Reproductive Rights said was the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a medical license. The legislature passed the measure with no discussion or debate on Thursday. “Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,“ Dahm said. But abortion-rights supporters—and the state’s medical association—have said the bill is unconstitutional. Senator Ervin Yen, a Republican and the only physician in the senate, described the measure as “insane” and voted against it.


►   Tennessee Moves Forward With Lawsuit to Refuse Refugees

Tennessee is poised to be the first state to sue the federal government to prevent the settlement of refugees, the Tennessean reports. On Friday, Governor Bill Haslam refused to sign—but also refused to veto—a resolution passed resoundingly by the Tennessee legislature earlier this year. That lack of action allows the rest of the state government to move forward with a lawsuit against the federal government. The resolution calls on the state attorney general to sue the federal government. If the attorney general decides not to, the resolution says the legislature will hire its own lawyers to do so. Supporters of the resolution say they’ll use a law firm that has previously challenged “abortionists, pornographers, those against school prayer, those against the Ten Commandments, those against God.”

Haslam has expressed a number of concerns about the resolution in the past, including whether or not the legislature has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state and letting a branch of the government tell the attorney general what to do, the AP reports. The attorney general’s office hasn’t said whether it will follow through on the lawsuit. But attorney general Herbert Slatery has in the past said the state legally can’t refuse to accept refugees mandated by the federal government, according to WKRN. Opponents of the resolution say it will make life harder for refugees already living in Tennessee. “Attempting to block refugee resettlement blames refugees for the very terror they are fleeing,“ the Tennessean quotes an ACLU executive director as saying. The resolution was supported through an online petition titled “Don’t let potential terrorists come to Tennessee.“


►   White House Locked Down After Shots Fired Outside

Secret Service officers shot a man Friday afternoon after shots were fired near the White House, CNN reports. The White House was locked down during the shooting, and Vice President Biden was sheltered inside. President Obama was not at the White House at the time, according to ABC News. Early reports stated the suspect was shooting at the White House, but details remain unclear. Reuters reports the suspect was shot by a Secret Service officer near a security checkpoint after he allegedly refused to drop his gun. The suspect was given medical treatment, taken into custody, and transported to the hospital.


►   Puppy Treated for Drug Addiction Tested Positive for Heroin, Meth

A puppy who was found to be under the influence of meth and heroin had to undergo drug addiction treatment, CNN reports. California police served an arrest warrant on 40-year-old Joshua West at a motel in March. Inside the motel, they found drugs, used needles, and a terrier mix named Bubba. According to CBS Los Angeles, Bubba was lethargic and later tested positive for meth and heroin. “This strikes me as pretty horrible,” says Lt. Robert Wright with the Tustin Police Department, which went public about Bubba’s plight this week. “This is the first time we’ve ever heard of someone reporting that an animal has been under the influence.”

Bubba was handed over to the Orange County Animal Care for treatment. According to a Tustin Police Department Facebook post, Bubba is doing “excellent” but is still undergoing medical care. When he’s ready, he’ll be given to a rescue organization and will hopefully find a new home. While it’s unclear how Bubba got the drugs in his system, police are pushing for West to be charged with animal cruelty in addition to the illegal drug possession charges.


►   Nothing Stops the Mail …Except One Carrier’s Major Snake Phobia

“Rain, snow, but not the snakes?” Fox 32 Chicago quotes Bill Hawkins as saying. Hawkins and his neighbors in Chicago’s Rogers Park are having a hard time getting their mail thanks to the annual springtime boom in garter snakes and a mail carrier deathly afraid of them. A sign in one frustrated neighbor’s front yard reads, “Snake-free zone. Could we pleeze have our mail?“ the Chicago Tribune reports. The problem started in late March, and some neighbors have gone longer than a week without mail at times. A Post Office spokesperson says mail carriers have to right to decide if an area is a safety risk. “In this case, the woman is terrified of snakes,“ he tells the Tribune. “It is irrelevant if the snakes are dangerous or not. Our employees’ safety is the utmost priority.“

A supervisor has been walking with the mail carrier for the past few days to assess the situation. The supervisor goes up to a house and signals the carrier if the coast is clear. Hawkins tried to move some of the garter snakes out of the way for the carrier to no avail. “She was freaked out about snakes completely,“ he tells Fox. Neighbors say they’ve been told by the Post Office it’s their responsibility to get rid of the snakes if they want their mail. “It’s not an infestation of snakes. It is a normal amount of snakes,“ resident Marry Harris, who has no plans to chase the snakes out of Rogers Park, tells the Tribune. “I just want my mail.“ Chicagoist reports Rogers Park was named the city’s most livable neighborhood in 2016. The snakes would seem to agree; the mail carrier, likely not.


►   Teen Girl Dies While Playing Tug-of-War at School Event

An Alabama family is reeling after their 13-year-old daughter collapsed and died during a game of tug-of-war during her school’s field day on Thursday, WVTM reports. Leslie Wentworth says her daughter Maddison was “excited” for the annual field day. “She was a beautiful kid,“ Wentworth says. “She was a bright star. She was going to go places.“ When Maddison collapsed while playing tug-of-war at Williams Intermedia School in Pell City, a school nurse and coaches immediately started performing CPR, according to WIAT. But the teen was pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital. Wentworth tells Fox News Maddison didn’t have any health problems that she knew of, and a cause of death has yet to be determined.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, students, faculty, and staff,” a police spokesperson tells WIAT. One parent is blaming the school for not providing adequate water for the students during a hot field day. “[My daughter] told me that they were only allowed to get water if they went to go to the restroom, otherwise they had to buy the water,“ Amanda Garrett says. “She said it was like a dollar or a $1.50 a bottle.“ She says her daughter, who was playing tug-of-war with Maddison, said Maddison complained about being dizzy and having a headache before collapsing. The school district’s superintendent tells WVTM teachers made sure water was available for students.


►   Diploma Printing Error Embarrasses High School

Graduates at a California high school received a final reminder that spelling is important when they received diploma covers bearing the name “Ontario High Shcool.“ The typo was a printing error made by the grad products company, the district superintendent tells KTLA. All 550 grads will receive a corrected cover and an apology letter, reports NBC Los Angeles. “WOOO GRADUATED FROM ONTARIO HIGH SHCOOL !!!!!!“ tweeted one grad with a photo of the misspelled cover. A friend wished her good luck in collage.

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