Summer Learning Challenge Winners Honored

The Gilmer Free Press

To ensure that West Virginia’s students did not fall behind while school was out of session during the summer months, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) encouraged children statewide to keep their academic skills sharp through the Summer Learning Reading and Math Challenge.

The Challenge encouraged students to pledge to read and engage in educational activities throughout the summer. Many students, especially children from low income families, experience the “summer slide” or the summer learning loss that occurs among children which can result in a loss of knowledge and reading ability.

The four schools with the highest percentage of its student body who “pledged to read” were honored by WVDE. The statewide winners are: Bridgeport Middle School, Harrison County (first place); H.E. White Community School, Clay County (second place); Geary Elementary, Roane County (third place) and Hamlin Pre-K-8, Lincoln County (fourth place).

Each of the four schools is awarded a one year site license to one of the following reading improvement programs: Achieve3000, Scholastic Reading Counts! and Capstone Digital’s myON.

“I was excited for my students to take the Summer Reading Challenge as we have been focusing diligently on increasing our students’ literacy skills,” said April Kearns, an administrator at H.E. White Community School. “We were thrilled to learn we had the highest number of pledges in the state. I know it will continue fostering the love of reading and help our students increase their proficiency.”

Research shows that students who read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to be successful later in life. Students who fail to meet this milestone falter in the later grades. The WVDE and West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading are challenging students to read every day this summer, for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Suggested summer reading goals for students based on grade levels are:

  • K-2 students: 10 books
  • 3-5 students: 8 chapter books
  • 6-12 students: 5 fiction books and 5 nonfiction books.

A national study in 1996 found that children lose about two months of learning in math computation skills over a summer. As part of the Summer Learning Reading and Math Challenge, resources to engage students in math skill-building activities are provided. The program’s goal is to help children retain math skills they learned during the previous school year.

Techconnect WV Awarded $500,000 in Grant Funds to Boost Innovation and Entrepreneurship in WV

The Gilmer Free Press

TechConnect West Virginia has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to “spur innovation and entrepreneurship, long-term competitiveness and job creation across West Virginia.”

TechConnect’s mission is to diversify West Virginia’s economy through innovations in advanced energy, chemicals and advanced materials, biometrics, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.

The program, known as ScaleUp West Virginia, is a two-year suite of programs designed to accelerate the states’ capacity to diversify its economy in a 40-county region of West Virginia.  The $500,000 grant will be matched with $210,000 in local funding, for a total project spend of $710,000. 

TechConnect Executive Director Anne Barth said the funding “will support programs designed to accelerate the commercialization of new products and technologies, leading to the creation and expansion of small businesses and jobs.”

“With EDA’s support, ScaleUp West Virginia will also foster advanced manufacturing and support small manufacturers in the state by working with proven service providers to catalyze the creation and retention of jobs and improve economic opportunities,” she added.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, announced the grant award, saying public-private teamwork is essential.

“In order to improve West Virginia’s economic success and boost our economy, we need to ensure our public and private sectors work together,” he said “The strategies created and implemented with this funding will coordinate our resources efficiently to overcome our economic challenges and spur our economic growth and develop new opportunities across West Virginia.”

ScaleUp West Virginia will work to develop the next generation of entrepreneurship in West Virginia. The scope of work includes promotion of SBIR/STTR programs in the state;

ScaleUp WV Venture, in partnership with The INNOVA Commercialization Group at the High Technology Foundation; ScaleUp WV Advanced Manufacturing, in partnership with the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing at Marshall University; ScaleUp WV Design for Manufacturing, in partnership with the Center for Applied Research & Technology at Bluefield State College; ScaleUp WV Transformational Manufacturing, in partnership with the WV Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the WVU Industrial Extension; ChemAssist, in partnership with ChemCeption and the Chemical Alliance Zone; and a variety of programs designed to spur the next generation of entrepreneurship in communities and schools.

Counties included in the service area include Barbour, Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Nicholas, Ohio, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Roane, Taylor, Tyler, Tucker, Upshur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt and Wyoming.

ScaleUp West Virginia will accelerate the state’s capacity to foster business formation through programs designed to encourage entrepreneurship, help startups find the assistance needed to successfully launch, and support existing businesses in devising strategies for growing and adapting to new markets, officials said. It also will accelerate opportunities for small manufacturers to create and retain jobs by helping them explore new and cutting edge innovations in products, process, and services leading to new and expanded markets opportunities. A new generation of entrepreneurs will be connected with mentors, investors and the resources needed to accelerate the launch of startup businesses. Through fostering this economic diversification, the region’s tax base will be expanded, private sector investment will be more easily attracted, and these programs will greatly advance the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the region by building the foundation for a cycle of growth to replace a cycle of decline.

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia airman among victims of military plane crash

CHARLESTON, WV — The Defense Department has released the identities of six U.S. airmen killed in the crash of a military transport plane in Afghanistan, including a West Virginia resident.

The department said Saturday that 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Hammond of Moundsville was among the victims.

Hammond was a 2007 graduate of John Marshall High School in Glen Dale.

Hammond and three other airmen were assigned to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. The other two were assigned to Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts.

Five civilians on the aircraft also were killed.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

West Virginia flags lowered to honor Oregon shooting victims

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has ordered all flags at all state facilities lowered in honor of the victims of a community college shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.

On Saturday, Tomblin ordered the lowering of U.S. and state flags until sunset on Tuesday.
A gunman fatally shot eight students and a teacher on Thursday at Umpqua Community College before being killed in a shootout with police.

Tomblin called it a “senseless act of violence” and says the loss of the victims “touches us all.“

Tickets on sale for West Virginia Music Hall ceremony

CHARLESTON, WV — Tickets are on sale for this month’s West Virginia Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The ceremony will be held October 24 at the state Culture Center in Charleston.

Among the six musicians being inducted is John Ellison, the lead singer and songwriter for the Soul Brothers Six. He wrote the group’s first recording, “Some Kind of Wonderful,“ which was released in 1967. Since then, more than 60 artists have recorded the song.

Other members of the class of 2015 are jazz artist Bob Thompson, pedal steel and dobro player Russ Hicks, and the late James Edward Haley, Buddy Starcher and Harry Vann Walls.

General admission tickets are $60. For $250, fans can attend the ceremony, meet the inductees and attend receptions before and after the event.

Couple challenge forfeiture of assets in criminal case

CHARLESTON, WV — A Jackson County couple is challenging the forfeiture of their farm, more than 40 firearms and other assets, arguing that a circuit court judge erred when he found that the items were connected to illegal drug activity.

Hubert D. Messer and his wife, Sharon L. Messer, also say in a court filing that the judge incorrectly found that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department met its burden of proof that the assets are subject to forfeiture.

“There simply was no establishment of a connection between the properties to an illegal drug transaction,“ the filing stated.

The Messers have asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the ruling and send the case back to Jackson County Circuit Court for further proceedings. The justices will hear arguments in the case on Wednesday.

State and local authorities filed a forfeiture petition in Jackson County Circuit Court in May 2013 following Hubert Messer’s arrest on a state stolen property charge. He subsequently pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.

Assets listed on the petition included the couple’s 54-acre farm, 42 firearms, two safes, a crossbow, several vehicles and lawnmowers, and eight saddles, court records show.

Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans III ruled in 2014 that most of the assets were subject to forfeiture because they were connected to the drug trade. He said the farm was a front for Hubert Messer’s drug trade, and that Messer paid farm hands with pain pills. Other assets either were obtained in exchange for drugs, or were bought with money earned by selling drugs.

“The evidence .... indicates that Mr. and Mrs. Messer were clearly spending money exceeding what they obtained through legitimate means,“ Evans wrote in his ruling.

Exceptions included the couple’s house. Evans said there was not “a substantial enough nexus between the house and the drug deals to allow for forfeiture of the home.“

The couple argues that Evans did not properly apply a previous West Virginia Supreme Court decision regarding forfeitures. That decision said a forfeiture of real property under state law violates the Eighth Amendment and the West Virginia Constitution’s excessive fines clause if the amount is “grossly disproportionate” to the gravity of the offense.

Hubert Messer was only charged in state court with transferring and receiving stolen property, which carries a maximum $2,500 fine, the Messers’ filing said.

Jackson County prosecutor Kennad L. Skeen, representing the sheriff’s department, said in a court filing that the state potentially could charge Hubert Messer with hundreds of counts of delivery of a controlled substance. Each count would have a maximum $25,000 fine.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Crazy Sight: Mountain Lion Atop Utility Pole

One of the more unusual sights of the week comes via the Victorville Daily Press in California, which captured an image of a mountain lion on top of a power pole. The big cat apparently scrambled up the 35-foot pole in the Lucerne Valley on Tuesday when kids traveling home on a school bus startled it. Wildlife officials parked nearby to keep gawkers at a distance, and the mountain lion left its perch for the wild sometime Tuesday night.

Cops: Man Kills 3 Because They Won’t Move Out

A Salt Lake City man told police he shot three people staying at his house—including a baby—because they wouldn’t move out, prosecutors said Thursday. Alexander Tran, 32, was charged with three counts of aggravated murder. He had been living in the basement of the house that his mother bought for him, and the three victims where living on the main floor, police said. When Tran’s mother found out he was letting people stay there, she asked for them move out. Tran told her that they wouldn’t leave but called a few days later—the day of the deaths—and reported they were gone, according to charging documents.

Their bodies were found September 18 after Heike Poike, 50, didn’t pick up her 8-year-old grandson from school and officials called police. They stopped to check on Poike and found her dead, along with her 2-month-old granddaughter Lyrik Poike and an acquaintance, Dakota Smith, 28. Tran was also at the house with a gun, and police say he acknowledged the shootings. It was unclear if the victims were formal, rent-paying tenants or had some other arrangement with Tran. The baby’s mother is in jail, and the identity of the baby’s father is unclear, police have said. Tran was being held at the Salt Lake County jail on $3 million bail.

Here Are the Victims of the Oregon School Shooting

On Friday, authorities identified the nine victims of Thursday’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, the AP reports. The victims range in age from 18 to 67. According to KING, in a city of only 20,000 people it’s likely everyone knows the victims or someone who knows the victims. “I don’t even want to know the names yet. I’m not ready,“ Gail Kuntz said Thursday at a vigil. “Once the names are released, it’s going to hurt this community all over again.“ The nine victims were identified as:

  • Lucero Alcaraz, 19: A Roseburg native in her first year of college, she was hoping to become a nurse or pediatrician, BuzzFeed reports. Her family describes her as “the responsible one” among her family’s six kids.
  • Rebecka Carnes, 18: She had just started school and a new job.
  • Jason Johnson, 33: After struggling with drug abuse, he became the first child in his family to go to college, his mom tells NBC. He started classes Monday.
  • Quinn Cooper, 18: A Roseburg native, it was only his fourth day of college. His family describes him as “funny, sweet, compassionate, and such a wonderful, loving person.“
  • Treven Anspach, 20: Family and friends call him as “a perfect son” and “easygoing and humble.“ He enjoyed playing basketball and soccer.
  • Lucas Eibel, 18: Another Roseburg native, he was studying chemistry when not volunteering at an animal shelter and wild animal park. “We have tried to figure out how to tell everyone how amazing Lucas was, but that would take 18 years,” his family says.
  • Lawrence Levine, 67: A professor, he was teaching class at the time of the shooting, KING reports.
  • Kim Dietz, 59: She was a Roseburg native and had a daughter who attended UCC who was not harmed.
  • Sarena Moore, 44: “May you rest in peace Sis, and may your murder burn in Hell,“ wrote a man identifying himself as her brother on Facebook.

Water in Flint, Michigan, Looks ‘Like Urine,‘ and Worse

A public health emergency was declared in Flint, Michigan, yesterday over the state of the city’s drinking water—and a story in the Detroit News illustrates just how bad the situation is. Ashley Holt, 25, tells the paper that the water coming out of her faucet looks “like urine,“ smells “like the sewer,“ and doesn’t taste “normal"—and it’s been that way for nearly a year now. Last week, a group of doctors revealed that children in the city (where 41.5% of the population lives below the poverty line) have elevated levels of lead in their blood, leading to the state of emergency and the county commissioners recommending people only use the water if it first goes through an approved filter; thousands of filters are being given to local families. On Friday, Governor Rick Snyder said it may reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system to deal with the problem, and that the state will also expedite a pipeline to Lake Huron to get water to Flint, the News reports.

Flint stopped paying Detroit for its water service last year, citing the rising cost of the water service, and then complaints about the water quality started. Flint River is now used for the city’s drinking water, and it seems the corrosive water is releasing lead from old pipes in homes, the AP reports. Residents have complained not just about the water’s taste, smell, and appearance, but about rashes, hair loss, and other health concerns that may be related to its use; a General Motors plant even stopped using the water because it rusted vehicle parts, the company said. Citizens, alongside national groups, petitioned the EPA Thursday to order Michigan and its environmental officials to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water. As for Holt, she says she struggles to afford bottled water for her kids, and other locals echo that. “It’s a complex with a whole lot of people and a whole lot of babies there,“ says one of her townhouse complex. “These are people who probably can’t afford to go and buy bottled water. So they get forced into drinking the (tap) water that’s unhealthy.“

UVa Murder Suspect Gets 3 Life Terms for Sex Assault

Jesse Matthew Jr., charged with the murders of college students Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, was sentenced Friday to life in prison for a sexual assault on a woman a decade ago in northern Virginia. Matthew, 33, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was officially sentenced to three consecutive life terms in Fairfax, a suburb of the nation’s capital, for attempted capital murder, abduction, and sexual assault of a woman in 2005. DNA evidence collected from Matthew during last year’s investigation of Graham’s disappearance linked him to the Fairfax case. Matthew’s family had asked the judge for leniency in letters to the court, and a former girlfriend, identifying herself only as “Diana,“ wrote a letter on Matthew’s behalf saying he was raped as a child.

But Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, who argued for the life sentence, was unmoved by the claim that Matthew himself may have been a victim of sexual assault. He told Judge David Schell he was suspicious about the truth of the claim and indifferent to its significance. “If indeed this man was ever raped, then of all people it is he who should be loath to rape someone else,“ Morrogh said. Sentencing guidelines broadly called for a term of anywhere from nine to 44 years, lawyers said. Matthew’s public defender urged the judge not to consider “what might have happened in Charlottesville"—a reference to the deaths of Graham and Harrington, which have received national attention—in sentencing Matthew for the assault. Schell said little in handing down the maximum sentence, calling the crime a “vicious and brutal attack.“ Hannah Graham’s parents and Morgan Harrington’s mother attended Friday’s sentencing.

Woman Says Disorder Caused Her to Make Herself Blind

Jewel Shuping has been preoccupied with blindness since she was a young girl. She says she used to roam the halls at night at age 3 or 4, the idea of being blind felt “comfortable” when she was 6, and she spent hours staring at the sun when her mother told her it would hurt her eyes, reports the Daily Mirror. By the time she was a teenager, Shuping was wearing dark glasses, carrying a white cane, and mastering Braille. “I was ‘blind-simming,‘ which is pretending to be blind,“ she says. “But the idea kept coming up in my head, and by the time I was 21 it was a non-stop alarm that was going off.“ Shuping says she suffers from body integrity identity disorder (BIID), in which able-bodied people think they’re supposed to be disabled.

Today Shuping, who’s 30 and lives in North Carolina, says she’s happier than ever now that her dream to be blind has finally come true, even though her mother and sister have cut off contact, reports KFOR, citing Barcroft TV. She originally told her family she lost her sight in an accident, but she says the real story is that she worked with a psychologist who put a numbing agent and then a few drops of drain cleaner in each eye. “It hurt, let me tell you,“ she says. “My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin. But all I could think was, ‘I am going blind, it is going to be OK.‘“ Shuping, who won’t name the psychologist, says she hopes her story will raise awareness of BIID. “I don’t think I’m crazy, I just have a disorder.“

Lawsuit: ‘Most Interesting Man’ Is ‘Least Honorable’

Jonathan Goldsmith doesn’t always get sued but when he does, it can get nasty. The actor best known for portraying the “Most Interesting Man in the World” in Dos Equis ads is being sued for breach of contract by his former talent agency, which claims he has stopped paying commission on the roughly $1 million a year he makes from the ads, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “There is nothing interesting about being a deadbeat or failing to pay those directly responsible for one’s career success,“ the complaint says. “As it now turns out, had Goldsmith landed a role that more accurately portray[ed] his true character, he would have landed the role of ‘The Least Honorable Man in the Entertainment Business.‘“

Goldsmith’s former manager at Jordan Lee, Inc. says Goldsmith, who got the Dos Equis job in 2006 stopped paying the 10% commission a year ago because he felt he had paid “enough,“ TMZ reports. The lawsuit says the actor’s relationship with the agency changed after the agent who got him the role—and is now his wife—left the company, per the Reporter. Goldsmith, whose acting career began in the 1950s, returned to acting and auditioned for the “Most Interesting Man” role after another lawsuit destroyed the business he left Hollywood for, he said in a Forbes interview last month.

Did Pork Roll Company Fire Man for Fa**ing?

An employee of one of New Jersey’s top pork roll makers was fired for passing too much gas in the office, at least according to his wife, who’s suing the company. Louann Clem claims her husband suffered serious consequences, including extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea, from gastric bypass surgery, the Home News Tribune reports.

The lawsuit alleges that Case Pork Roll Co. president Thomas Dolan complained about the side effects and told Rich Clem to work from home because he made the office smell. But owner Tom Grieb says Clem and his wife, who also worked there, walked out when business wasn’t good and they refused to take a pay cut. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

World News

The Gilmer Free Press

Hardline Archbishop Set Up Kim Davis Meeting

A Vatican official says there is now “a sense of regret” that Pope Francis ever met Kim Davis, reports Reuters—and that could be bad news for the archbishop who set up the meeting. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s ambassador to the US, was appointed by Benedict XVI and is known for his hardline stance against same-sex marriage, the Washington Post reports. Vatican officials say Francis wasn’t briefed on the Davis case and the meeting “should not be considered a form of support,“ which has left church insiders wondering whether Vigano deliberately blindsided Francis or merely underestimated just how controversial the meeting would turn out to be, the New York Times reports.

A Vatican source tells CBS 2 that Francis was “exploited” by those with their own agendas and the meeting should never have happened. Davis’ lawyer, who first announced the meeting, tells the Times that it was set up by Vigano—whom he met at an anti-gay marriage rally in Washington, DC, earlier this year—but they were “led to believe that the invitation did come directly from Pope Francis.“ The lawyer says the Vatican’s description of the meeting as a very brief one among dozens is “absolute nonsense” and “somebody is trying to throw some people under the bus.“ Bishops are required to ask for permission to resign when they turn 75, and it seems likely that Vigano’s will be accepted when he reaches that age in January, the Times notes.

Five Steps to Universally-Designed Instruction

The Gilmer Free Press

White paper addresses instructional design process to make learning rigorous, accessible for all learners learning-instructionGoalbook has published a white paper, Different Paths Up the Same Mountain, which outlines a 5-step instructional design process for educators to apply in the classroom.

The new state and Common Core standards were intended to prepare all students to be college and career ready in the 21st century. This transition has occurred as general education classrooms have increased in diversity, including students with special needs and English Language Learners.

Diversity and variability is the norm–not the exception–in the U.S. K-12 classroom. School and district leaders across the country are adapting their instructional approach to address the diversity of learners present in classrooms.

In order to design instruction that engages and supports all students, educators can consider five steps:

1. Select a key learning standard
2. Determine the core purpose
3. Develop a clear instructional objective
4. Identify potential barriers
5. Design targeted strategies

Rob Neu, Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, states, “At Oklahoma City Public Schools, we are committed to providing our diverse student population a wide range of opportunities for learning and experiences that prepare them well for the future. Increasing academic rigor is a central pillar of our district strategic plan.”

Neu observed, “Goalbook’s white paper articulates a clear approach for how educators can design instruction that provides access to high levels of learning for all students.”

Research organizations such as the National Center on Universal Design for Learning have emphasized the importance of acknowledging learner variability: the idea that there is no such thing as the “average student.” Different Paths Up the Same Mountain presents actionable steps for educators to incorporate best practices from pedagogical research into instructional design.

“Instructional practice is the key to student success. Our 5-Step Instructional Design Process unifies two important frameworks for educators, standards-based instruction and Universal Design for Learning,” states Daniel Jhin Yoo, Founder of Goalbook and author of the white paper.

Yoo said, “Every student can learn – planning instruction for a diverse group of students doesn’t require multiple lesson plans – instead, it’s about offering students multiple pathways for success. We help teachers make this instructional approach easier to apply.”

The full publication is available for download at

~~  Material from a press release was used in this report ~~

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Facebook Users Help WV Natural Resources Police Solve Albino Deer Killing Case in Boone County

MADISON, WV – The West Virginia Natural Resources Police have solved an albino deer killing case in Boone County, thanks to help from Facebook users.

On September 27, 2015, Natural Resources Police Officer Dakoda Chattin got a call from Boone County 911 advising that an albino deer had been shot and killed in someone’s yard along Route 17. After interviewing witnesses, the only evidence available was that there were multiple suspects involved and they drove a smaller model gray truck.

The Gilmer Free Press

The incident was posted on the Natural Resources Police Facebook page ( with a request for help from the public. That post was seen by nearly half a million people and was shared by more than 7,000. Information received following the post helped Officer Chattin learn of suspects who might have committed the crime.

After investigation and research into names provided by the public, Officer Chattin made contact with three suspects. They admitted in their statements that they had committed the unlawful act.

Charges include hunting without a license, hunting during closed season, carrying a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, shooting from a motor vehicle, shooting from a public road, and illegal firearm for deer hunting.

“We continue to be impressed with how we’ve been able to solve crimes with the public’s help,“ Natural Resources Police Col. Jerry Jenkins said. “The response has been beyond what we anticipated when we began using Facebook earlier this year. It’s become a valuable tool for us to gather information about crimes and suspects. It shows how deeply the community of hunting and fishing enthusiasts in West Virginia cares about protecting wildlife and enforcing laws. We encourage anyone who sees anyone violating the state’s wildlife laws to call 911 or their closest DNR district office.“

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia Highways Officials to Hold Project Meetings

West Virginia highways officials are planning 11 informational meetings around the state to seek input about potential future projects.

The Department of Transportation is developing a list of expansion, resurfacing and other transit projects for fiscal years 2016 through 2021. The list will be available for discussion.

The first meeting is set for Tuesday at Elkins Middle School. Another will be held next Thursday at Lewis County High School in Weston.

Comments will be accepted during the meeting, and written comments can be sent to the Division of Highways by November 17.

Jury Selection Resumes on Day 2 of Don Blankenship Trial

The latest developments in the federal trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. All times are local:

2:05 p.m.

The judge in the case against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship said she would require exhibits used in the trial to be available for the media the next day.

In a transcript of Thursday’s court session, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger said she will require prosecutors and defense attorneys to make exhibits publicly available for the media by 9 a.m. the day after they were presented in court. She said it follows a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail and West Virginia Public Broadcasting Inc. filed a motion Wednesday looking to ensure open access to exhibits and to jury selection.

Berger has not made a former order yet on the request.

1:15 p.m.

A transcript of jury selection proceedings shows how some prospective jurors answered questions about former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

In the transcript of Thursday’s court session, one person who called Blankenship a “scapegoat” was excused. Another was dismissed after saying nothing she read painted Blankenship in a good light.

A possible juror who wasn’t dismissed Thursday said she recalled nothing about the Upper Big Branch Mine, where an explosion killed 29 men in 2010. Another person who wasn’t dismissed said she remembered hearing about an explosion or something, but didn’t know who Blankenship was.

Previously, Judge Irene Berger told the court reporter not to release the transcript. It was viewable at a courthouse public terminal Friday before access was restricted.

Prospective jurors were on break until 1:30 p.m.

9:45 a.m.

Potential jurors are back in the courtroom for the second day of jury selection in the federal trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

They joined federal prosecutors and Blankenship’s attorneys in the courtroom Friday before U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Charleston.

The public, including reporters, watched the proceedings from a live closed-circuit television feed from another room.

At one point, Blankenship could be seen listening in at the judge’s bench when Berger was talking to a prospective juror.

According to a filing in federal court, 88 potential jurors were brought in Thursday. Of those, 42 were excused.

8:30 a.m.

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has arrived for the second day of jury selection at his federal trial.

Blankenship smiled but didn’t answer when a reporter talked to him upon arriving Friday outside U.S. District Court in Charleston. One of Blankenship’s attorneys said he wasn’t taking questions.

The 65-year-old Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break safety laws and lying to financial regulators about safety practices at the Upper Big Branch Mine.

Blankenship faces up to three decades in prison if convicted over how he ran the mine, which exploded in 2010, killing 29 miners.

Hearings Set on Proposed Rule on Machine Mine Sensors

Public hearings are set this month on a proposed federal rule to require coal mine operators to equip coal hauling machines and scoops with sensors intended to curb fatalities and injuries in underground mines.

The sensors automatically shut down equipment when people get too close.

Public hearings on the proposed rule will be held October 06 in Denver, October 08 in Birmingham, Alabama, October 19 in Beaver, West Virginia, and October 29 in Indianapolis. Coal hauling machines include shuttle and ram cars and continuous haulage systems.

Federal mine regulators say sensors could have prevented 42 fatalities on mobile machines from 1984 through 2014.

A federal rule effective earlier this year requires underground operators to have sensors on continuous mining machines. It is being phased in over the next three years.

Bridgeport proposes amending Home Rule plan to include sales tax increase

BRIDGEPORT, WV — One of the original municipalities to be accepted into the Home Rule Pilot program is proposing a sales tax increase in order to fund the construction of a recreation facility.

The City of Bridgeport is preparing to amend its Home Rule application in November to authorize up to a one percent sales tax added to the current state sales tax of six percent.

The tax will be collected on retail sales inside the city limits of Bridgeport and certain B&O taxes will be reduced or eliminated.

The revenue from the sales tax will help pay for the construction, operation and maintenance costs of an indoor recreation facility located near the current Bridgeport Recreation Complex.

The funds may also be used for Parks & Recreation, civic and cultural facilities.

Officials are currently in the process of obtaining a firm to prepare a feasibility study to determine the type and use for such a facility, a detailed concept plan of the proposed facility, a proposed location for the new facility, and a cost analysis for constructing, operating and maintaining the facility.

The City of Bridgeport will provide at least 30 days’ notice of public hearing by a Class II Legal Advertisement and a copy of the written plan will be made available in the City Manager’s Office for public inspection at least 30 days prior to the hearing.

Currently, that public hearing is scheduled to take place on November 2 at 7:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

An ordinance is required to authorize submission of the application for amendment and will have two readings, in accordance with State Law. The City will then submit an amended application to the Municipal Home Rule Board.

If approved, an additional ordinance will be required to impose the tax and reduce or eliminate some B&O taxes.

Any jurisdiction that changes the tax rate must notify the Tax Commissioner 180 days before the effective date of the rate change, which may begin on July 01, 2016.

In 2007, the West Virginia Legislature created the Municipal Home Rule Pilot program to last five years and allowed implementation of ordinances, acts, resolutions, rules and regulations without regard to state laws, with the exception that proposals, among other things, had to comply with the U.S. Constitution and the West Virginia Constitution.

Bridgeport was one of the first four cities, which also included Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling.

In 2013, the West Virginia Legislature extended the program for an additional five years, expanded the number of participating municipalities to 20, and expanded the areas that could not be affected by Home Rule.

Huntington Syringe Exchange Given Grant to Expand

West Virginia’s first syringe exchange program has received a $75,000 grant to expand.

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington reports that the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation awarded the grant Thursday to support education and risk reduction programs for drug-addicted individuals. The syringe exchange program was started in September by the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

The Huntington program allows intravenous drug users to exchange used needles for clean ones at a clinic. Physician Director Dr. Michael Kilkenny says the grant will help the clinic, which he says needs to expand its hours to facilitate the number of addicts who are using the program.

The syringe exchange program is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Punitive damages possible in suit against DuPont over C8

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A federal judge has rejected a motion arguing that evidence doesn’t support punitive damages for an Ohio woman who says she got cancer after drinking water contaminated by a chemical discharged from a DuPont plant.

The case might help settle thousands of similar lawsuits about the chemical giant’s dumping of C8 into local drinking water.

Plaintiff Clara Bartlett alleges Delaware-based DuPont didn’t inform the public but knew potential risks posed by C8 that was deposited into the Ohio River by a plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia.

DuPont’s chief scientist has testified he didn’t know until 2012 that C8 could cause several diseases.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the judge said a “reasonable jury” could have enough evidence to favor punitive damages in the case. He previously refused to dismiss it.

WV, VA get $1 million each in U.S. bay cleanup funds

RICHMOND, VA - Virginia and West Virginia each are receiving $1 million in federal funding for their roles in restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Education is intended to help farmland owners plant trees along rivers and streams to reduce runoff into waters that feed the bay.

For the past 20 years, the USDA has worked with the six bay states to establish more than 7,000 miles of stream and riverside trees. They are called riparian forest buffers. The program is credited with keeping millions of tons of sediments and other pollutants out of the bay.

The Environmental Protection Agency is leading the cleanup effort after years of neglect by states within the bay’s watershed.

Oregon Gunman Was Army Dropout Who Studied Mass Shooters

The Gilmer Free Press

ROSEBURG, OREGON — The 26-year-old gunman who opened fire in a community college English class, killing nine, was an Army boot camp dropout who studied mass shooters before becoming one himself.

A day after the rampage in an Oregon timber town, authorities said Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer wore a flak jacket and brought at least six guns and five ammunition magazines to the school. Investigators found another seven guns at the apartment he shared with his mother.

Officials on Friday released the names, ages and brief biographical information about the nine dead, who ranged in age from 18 to 67 and included several freshmen and a teacher. They were sons and daughters, spouses and parents.

One of the freshmen was active in the Future Farmers of America and loved to play soccer. Another was on only his fourth day of college.

Grieving families began sharing details of their loved ones.

“We have been trying to figure out how to tell everyone how amazing Lucas was, but that would take 18 years,“ the family of Lucas Eibel, 18, said in a statement released through the Douglas County Sheriff’s office.

Quinn Glen Cooper’s family said their son had just started college.

“I don’t know how we are going to move forward with our lives without Quinn,“ the Coopers said. “Our lives are shattered beyond repair.“

Nine other people were wounded in the attack, officials said.

Harper-Mercer, who died during a shootout with police, was armed with handguns and a rifle, some of which were military grade. The weapons had been purchased legally over the past three years, some by him, others by relatives, said Celinez Nunez, assistant field agent for the Seattle division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Those who knew the shooter described a deeply troubled loner.

At a different apartment complex where Harper-Mercer and his mother lived in Southern California, neighbors remembered a quiet and odd young man who rode a red bike everywhere.

Reina Webb, 19, said the man’s mother was friendly and often chatted with neighbors, but Harper-Mercer kept to himself. She said she occasionally heard him having temper tantrums in his apartment.

“He was kind of like a child so that’s why his tantrums would be like kind of weird. He’s a grown man. He shouldn’t be having a tantrum like a kid. That’s why I thought there was something — something was up,“ she said.

Harper-Mercer’s social media profiles suggested he was fascinated by the Irish Republican Army, frustrated by traditional organized religion and that he tracked other mass shootings. In one post, he appeared to urge readers to watch the online footage of Vester Flanagan shooting two former colleagues live on TV in August in Virginia, noting “the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.“

He may have even posted a warning. A message on 4chan — a forum where racist and misogynistic comments are frequent — warned of an impending attack, but it’s unclear if it came from Harper-Mercer.

“Some of you guys are alright. Don’t go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest,“ an anonymous poster wrote a day before the shootings.

On Thursday morning, he walked into Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College and began firing, shooting a teacher and students, many repeatedly. Survivors described a classroom of carnage, and one said he ordered students to state their religion before shooting them.

Students in a classroom next door heard several shots, one right after the other, and their teacher told them to leave.

“We began to run,“ student Hannah Miles said. “A lot of my classmates were going every which way. We started to run to the center of campus. And I turned around, and I saw students pouring out of the building.“

An aunt of an Army veteran hit by several bullets said he tried to stop the gunman from entering the classroom.

Wanda Mintz said her 30-year-old nephew, Chris Mintz, a student at the college, fell to the floor and asked the shooter to stop. But, she said, he shot Mintz again and went inside.

Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Rich Chatman, who is serving as a spokesman for the criminal investigation, said investigators were still processing the crime scene.

“As you can imagine, there is a tremendous amount of information and evidence for them to sort through,“ he said. “We have a very large team of investigators and forensic teams trying to process all of the information.“

Chatman said several hundred investigators are involved, ranging from federal agencies such as the FBI and ATF to state, county and city law enforcement.

Several years ago, Harper-Mercer moved to Winchester, Oregon, from Torrance, California, with his mother, a nurse named Laurel Harper. His father, Ian Mercer, originally from the United Kingdom, told reporters outside his Tarzana, California, home, “I’m just as shocked as anybody at what happened.“

At school in Oregon, “he was a typical Roseburg kid, kind of nerdy, kind of out there. Just himself,“ said Alex Frier, a stage manager at the college who said Harper-Mercer built sets for theater performances last semester.

A neighbor, Bronte Harte, said Harper-Mercer “seemed really unfriendly” and would “sit by himself in the dark in the balcony with this little light.“

Harte said a woman she believed to be Mercer’s mother also lived upstairs and was “crying her eyes out” Thursday.

The Army said Harper-Mercer flunked out of basic training in 2008.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Garrett said Harper-Mercer was in the military for a little over a month at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, but was discharged for failing to meet the minimum standards.

Garrett did not say which standards Harper-Mercer failed. Generally, the Army requires recruits to pass physical fitness tests and to be in generally good physical and mental health. Recruits must also pass a multiple-choice test covering science, math, reading comprehension and other topics.

In Washington, President Barack Obama lamented the government’s inability to pass stricter gun laws even after attacks like the one in Oregon.

At a news conference Friday at the White House, Obama said he plans to keep talking about the issue and “will politicize it” because inaction is itself a political decision the U.S. is making.

He said it’s impossible to identify mentally ill people likely to perpetrate mass shootings ahead of time. The only thing the U.S. can do, he explained, is ensure they don’t have an arsenal available “when something in them snaps.“


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Accidental Text to Stranger Leads to Wedding Bells

When Kasey Bergh accidentally sent a text to Henry Glendening, a complete stranger, during a business trip to Denver in 2012, her primary emotion was frustration at not being able to get a hold of any of her Nestlé-Purina colleagues. Turns out Glendening was in fact the exact person she needed, even though, at 23, he was 30 years her junior, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On June 27, 2015, almost exactly three years after the happy accident, the couple tied the knot in St. Louis, reports WNEP, and are now sharing their story of how an errant text and two open minds changed everything. “[The age gap] really didn’t make any difference,“ Glendening said. “We were so connected at that point through deeper stuff.“

Not only did the two connect about books, music, and movies, there were little things they noticed right from the start—like the time they arrived at a coffee shop at different times but ordered the exact same drink. Bergh, who’d divorced six years earlier, says she was settling into midlife as a single woman: “I had totally embraced I was single and that I never needed a guy,“ Bergh said. Henry, meanwhile, was in an unhappy relationship and working a dead-end retail job—while doing a lot of soul searching. Bergh helped him brainstorm what he really wanted. “Kasey is a huge inspirer,“ he says. “She wasn’t recommending or advocating any particular direction I go, but she encouraged exploring.“ Today he works at a digital agency and while the two are sometimes mistaken as mother and son, the newlyweds just “shrug it off,“ as the Post-Dispatch puts it.

Man’s Fashion Choices Get Him Busted for Burglary

A burglary suspect dubbed “The Man of Steal” by local media was busted Tuesday by Philly police after his fashion choices made him easy to ID, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Kyree Henneghan, 18, was nabbed trying to sell a stolen laptop from his BMX bike (his alleged getaway vehicle) and tied to two home break-ins this week and last. Henneghan’s outfit of choice during both thefts, which he admitted committing to police: a Superman shirt and red Chuck Taylor sneakers. He was charged with two counts of burglary and other related offenses. The moral: “Don’t steal and don’t ride your BMX bike with your red Chuck sneakers and blue Superman shirt,“ a police superintendent tells the paper.

Mom Accused of Murdering Baby Had Another Baby Who Died

A 33-year-old Yonkers woman is being held without bail on murder and manslaughter charges after allegedly throwing her newborn daughter to her death out a seventh-story apartment window—and now prosecutors in Westchester are investigating the 2008 death of her infant son, the New York Times reports. “In light of what has transpired, we will be reviewing that death again,“ a spokesman for the Westchester DA wrote in an email to the Journal News about Jennifer Berry’s previous child, who initially was believed to have died of sudden infant death syndrome when he was just over two weeks old. The spokesman adds that the first baby had been taken to the hospital one time before he was found dead in a bassinet at home. Another revelation in that case, per the Times: Just weeks before she gave birth to the baby boy, Berry left her employ with the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, where she worked in the child protective services branch for about six months.

Berry’s boyfriend, meanwhile, who isn’t facing charges, told police that he thought Berry had had an abortion, that he was in another room both when the baby was born and when she went out the window, and that he had no idea either incident had happened, NBC New York reports. A woman seen going into Berry’s home Wednesday had nothing to say, save, “It’s a family tragedy, please go away,“ per the Journal News. Who did have a lot to say: Berry’s neighbors, who tell People they’re shocked by the baby’s death. “I can’t sleep since I found out that baby was thrown out a window moments after being born,“ one tells the magazine. “If I had that woman in front of me, I don’t know what I’d do.“

Dog Deemed Part Wolf Saved From Euthanasia

When Josh and Tiffany Ogle were arrested in a domestic violence dispute in Orange County in May, the couple lost their four kids to foster care and their dog Karma was impounded. At that point animal control deemed the animal a wolf-dog hybrid that could not get the rabies vaccine and characterized it as “vicious” for killing two cats a few years earlier. An Orange County Superior Court judge ordered he be put down, but after weeks of public debate—including an online campaign and a county supervisors meeting last week during which OC Animal Care Director Jennifer Hawkins continued to call for Karma’s euthanization—county supervisors voted 3-2 to place Karma in a wolf sanctuary in North Carolina, while the judge, Corey S. Cramin, overturned his own decision and agreed, reports NBC Los Angeles.

“The court is actually addressing irresponsible pet ownership,“ Cramin said. “Karma is as much a victim as the people and pets who were harmed by Karma.“ Josh Ogle pleaded guilty in May and June to various charges, including resisting arrest and disturbing the peace, while Tiffany Ogle faces such charges as corporal injury on a spouse, child abuse and endangerment, and being under the influence of a controlled substance, reports “So hungry dog, neglected by drug users, gets out and does what it is trained to do—goes after a cat just like Wile E. Coyote,“ says board chairman Todd Spitzer, who led the fight to save Karma’s life. The Ogles’ attorney, meanwhile, says she has proof that Karma is a purebred Siberian Husky.

Veteran Charged Oregon Shooter, Was Shot 5 Times

A sheriff is refusing to speak the name of Oregon school shooter Chris Harper Mercer, but this name does deserve to be spoken: Chris Mintz. Family members say the 30-year-old Army veteran and second-year student at Umpqua Community College charged Mercer in an attempt to protect others, was shot at least five times—including in the back, abdomen, hands, and both legs—and survived, reports NBC News and the Winston-Salem Journal. Originally from North Carolina, Mintz joined the Army after high school and was deployed overseas during his 10 years of service, his cousin Derek Bourgeois tells the Daily Beast. He moved to Oregon a few years ago to care for his son, Tyrik, who turned 6 on Thursday. “It’s my son’s birthday, it’s my son’s birthday,“ Mintz reportedly said after he was shot.

Relatives tell Fox8 that Mintz heard gunshots while in a classroom and tried to block the shooter from entering it. “He’s a big guy,“ Bourgeois says, adding Mintz dabbled in mixed martial arts and was thinking of becoming a fitness trainer. Charging the shooter “sounds like something he would do,“ he says. Another student, a nurse, held his hand and prayed with him after desperately administering CPR to a dying victim, reports the Daily Beast. Family members say both of Mintz’s legs were broken and he’ll have to learn to walk again, but none of his vital organs were hit and he’s now in stable condition after surgery.

Beard-Transplanting Is a Growing Business

Baby-faced men can now look like lumberjacks thanks to advances in transplant technology, and a growing number of them are choosing to do so. Hair restoration surgeons say over the last decade, beard transplant requests have grown from a few a year to several per month or even per week, the New York Times reports. Decades ago, hair transplants involved using plugs of follicles that recipients had to grow into what the Times calls “Trumpian swirls,“ but surgeons can now transplant single follicles to create beards, mustaches, or sideburns indistinguishable from those of the naturally hirsute. The hairs are generally taken from the back of the head, though surgeons say some balding clients decide to transplant chest hairs instead. A full beard generally costs around $7,000.

And it’s not just hipsters getting the transplants. A 28-year-old paramedic who says his face used to alarm patients decided to get a full beard implanted. Patients “would look at me and be like, ‘OK, is this 16-year-old really going to take care of me?‘“ he tells the Times. “It was hard for people to trust me because I had that baby face.“ He says the beard has played a role in him looking “more mature, more manly, and just kind of getting respect from people.“ The trend appears to be global: The New Daily reports that thousands of Australian men have been traveling to Thailand for beard transplants that are cheaper than what they can get at home.

Oregon Sheriff Wrote Biden After Sandy Hook

The sheriff of the Oregon county where nine people were killed in a mass shooting Thursday has a history as a fierce opponent of gun control. A month after the Sandy Hook school shooting, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin wrote to Joe Biden arguing against stronger gun laws, the Oregonian reports. “Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings,“ he wrote in the January 15, 2013, letter, warning the vice president against “tampering” with the Second Amendment and saying he would refuse to enforce any law he deemed unconstitutional.

Hanlin—who refuses to speak the name of the Umpqua Community College gunman—also spoke out against gun laws in Oregon, telling state lawmakers in April this year that a bill to require background checks for gun transfers was unenforceable, per the Oregonian. His stance on gun rights is a popular one in the county, the AP reports, although the college’s president says guns were not allowed on campus and there was no armed guard. “This is an anomaly and a tragedy,“ she tells the AP. Of the presidential candidates to address the mass shooting, Hillary Clinton called for “sensible gun control measures,“ while Ben Carson argued against gun control, CNN reports.

Suspected School Shooter: ‘This Is the Only Time I’ll Be in the News’

The gunman in Thursday’s shooting at an Oregon community college was a 20-year-old male, Governor Kate Brown said at a press conference broadcast by KOIN. Police and the superintendent of the state also said the gunman exchanged gunfire with police and that he is dead, though it was not revealed whether he killed himself or was shot by authorities. Police recovered three pistols and one long gun from the scene, CNN reports. At least 10 are dead in the shooting.

A source tells CNN that investigators are looking into social media postings from Wednesday night that are believed to be between the gunman and others. When the gunman revealed his mass shooting plans, some called him a loser, some called him a “twisted hero,“ at least one person urged him not to go through with it—and others egged him on with suggestions about what to do. The suspected gunman allegedly wrote, “This is the only time I’ll ever be in the news. I’m so insignificant.“

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Vatican: Pope’s Kim Davis Visit Wasn’t What You Think

After Pope Francis met with Kim Davis during his US visit, a Los Angeles Times editorial framed the meeting as having “inevitably created the impression that the pope agreed with her assertion of a religious right to defy the US Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.“ The Vatican today tried to clear up the impression given by finally issuing a fuller statement to “contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired,“ says Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. His standout line, per the AP: “The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.“

Lombardi says Francis met with “several dozen” people at the Vatican’s Embassy in DC last Thursday just before departing for New York due to his “kindness and availability.“ Davis said the pope embraced her during their 15-minute meeting, thanked her for her courage, and told her to “stay strong.“ Her lawyer earlier this week told the New York Times the meeting was first discussed with the pope’s representatives on September 14, though he didn’t say which side brought the idea to the table. Davis had to be sneaked to the meeting spot, where she and her husband took photos with a portrait of Francis. “Out of deference and respect, they didn’t want to pull out a cellphone with the pope,“ her lawyer said; he added that the meeting was attended only by Davis and her husband, the pope, various security and staff, and a photographer.

Suspects Involved in Spencer, West Virginia Walmart Theft

The Gilmer Free Press

SPENCER, WV - Deputies in Roane County,WV released several photos of a theft that occurred inside a Walmart in Spencer, WV

According to a news release, two people were caught on camera stealing numerous electronic items in the early morning hours of Sunday, September 20, 2015 from the store.

Deputies say both people involved in theft got into a vehicle immediately after committing the crime.

They headed towards Calhoun County on US Highway 33 and 119 East.

Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call deputies with the Roane County Sheriff’s Office.


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Gilmer County Schools September 2015 Newsletter

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West Virginia Utility Aid Program Taking Applications

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Applications are being accepted for a program that helps low-income West Virginia households pay utility bills.

The nonprofit Dollar Energy Fund partners with companies across the state to administer the Utility Assistance Program.

The program provides grants to maintain or restore gas, electric and water service. More than 24,500 West Virginia households have been assisted by the program since 2008.

Eligible households can apply once per utility until September 30, 2016, to avoid termination or have their service restored. The maximum grant amount is $500.

Appalachian Power will delay grant payments for customers until December 01 with a maximum amount of $300. The delay will allow for more funds to be available to cover heating termination notices in the late winter months.

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