Burgess Shale Fossils on topic for GSC Presentation - Today

The Free Press WV

GLENVILLE, WV - Glenville State College Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Sara Sawyer will give a presentation entitled ‘ The Canadian Rockies: A Trek to the Burgess Shale’ on Tuesday, November 10 at 5:30 p.m. in room 107 of the Science Hall.

The Burges Shale is an assemblage of animal fossils found in the Canadian Rockies. The fossils are from the Cambrian period, are approximately 505 million years old, and give information about the early evolution and diversification of animals. The fossils were discovered in 1909 by Charles Walcott and are considered by many to be the most important animal fossils ever discovered. The Burgess Shale was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and Yoho National Park was formed in 1986 to protect those fossils. The fossil bed can only be seen with an approved park guide after a strenuous hike. This fossil bed is still revealing answers on issues related to the evolution of animals. This seminar will introduce people to the fossils of the Burgess Shale and what we are learning from them.

“I’ve always had an interest in the early evolution of animals, even though it’s not my research area. I chose to visit the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks) last summer in part to go to this fossil bed and also to see glaciers. The last couple summers I’ve tried to do one big trip and this was my trip last summer,“ said Sawyer. She goes on to say that she’ll share what has been learned about those fossils and what the current research says about early animal evolution with attendees of the presentation. There will also be some information about visiting the park in general and other interesting things to do in the park.

The presentation is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served at 5:00 p.m. The Glenville State College Department of Science and Mathematics and the student science and math honor society Chi Beta Phi are co-sponsoring the event.

Chancellor Hill: Marking 50 years of the Higher Education Act

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On November 08, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Higher Education Act, unparalleled federal legislation that strengthened investments in public colleges and universities and provided dedicated support to students pursuing higher education.

On that day 50 years ago, he said, “This will swing open a new door for the young people of America…the most important door that will ever open – the door to education.”

This was a touchstone moment for higher education in our country. It made postsecondary education a national priority and placed it within the reach of more lower- and middle-income Americans. And it avowed what public higher education is meant to accomplish – an educated citizenry and, as a result, a stronger economy.

West Virginia has benefitted greatly from opportunities made possible by the Higher Education Act – including federal Pell grants and low-interest loans. And in many ways, our state itself has risen to the standards this historic charter set forth.

We have established a strong network of public colleges and universities that offer vast degree opportunities at an affordable cost. Even with recent state budget challenges, comparisons show that a college education in West Virginia remains among the most affordable in the nation.

We have created West Virginia’s merit-based PROMISE Scholarship; need-based Higher Education Grant; Engineering, Science and Technology Scholarship; Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarship; and Higher Education Adult Part-Time Student Grant. Combined, West Virginia’s financial aid programs, which are administered and promoted to students across the state through the Higher Education Policy Commission, provided $92.3 million to students this year.

Also through the Policy Commission, we have funneled nearly $90 million in federal grants over the past seven years alone to our state for programs like GEAR UP, which was created through amendments made in 1998 to the Higher Education Act and today provides college guidance to students in 10 West Virginia counties; the College Foundation of West Virginia, our state’s free college- and career-planning website and outreach initiative; and West Virginia EPSCoR, which supports scientific research and STEM education and careers.

As a result of these efforts and numerous more, today we are producing a greater number of degrees than ever before – with 13,316 bachelor’s degrees earned across West Virginia public four-year higher education system last year. And we know that students who receive state support end up working in West Virginia at higher rates than overall graduates. In fact, one study found that 80 percent of PROMISE recipients who graduated in 2003-04, among the first students to receive the scholarship, were working in the state in 2012.

As we celebrate our progress, we also recognize that West Virginia needs far more of it.

By 2020, 51 percent of jobs in our state will require an associate degree or higher, but only 27 percent of West Virginians currently fall in that category. We also know that fewer than half of students seeking a bachelor’s degree in West Virginia complete college within six years. At the same time, many students don’t complete at all – leaving college with a precarious combination of the weight of student loan debt and the impediment of no degree.

That is why the Policy Commission, together with our colleges and universities, is working to open the doors to higher education even wider for our students, help them succeed by earning their degrees – and affirm West Virginia as a state full of ideas and solutions, leaders and job creators, and vibrant, forward-looking communities.

Fifty years ago, with a pen stroke, President Johnson envisioned those very things for our country. Today, I hope we can continue fulfilling that vision by standing steadfast around a confident belief in the power of public higher education as a sustained source of hope and growth for West Virginia.

In West Virginia….

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SBA gives Fayette schools a second chance to present consolidation plan

CHARLESTON, WV — The state School Building Authority voted Monday to reconsider Fayette County’s school consolidation plan after it was initially rejected in September.

Fayette County School Superintendent Terry George will present the county’s plan to members of the SBA Tuesday morning in Charleston.

“We’re very pleased,” said George about the SBA’s decision to put the plan back on its agenda. “We have not changed the amendment. I just think that they took the opportunity to reconsider and also I think that we were able to provide them with some additional facts concerning the financing of our project.”

The plan, which would combine four of the county’s five high schools, was proposed by George earlier this year. Those schools include Fayetteville, Oak Hill, Midland trail and Meadow Bridge — and two other schools. Oak Hill High School would become the new site for Collins Middle School. A consolidated high school would be in the Oak Hill area.

The SBA did not look at the plan any further due to the ongoing disagreement in the county and school bond issues that have been shutdown every year, since the 1970s, by Fayette County voters.

SBA Executive Director David Snead said even though they voted to take a second look at the plan, they still have concerns.

“There’s always been a question about travel and other issues there in Fayette County. There are some remote areas. I think there will be a lot of pointed questions still asked about the project,” Snead said.

George said there are a total of six schools in the county he would like to close.

“There are six schools that I just consider to be unsafe and not conducive to education, therefore; we would like to close those, move students into a facility where they know they can be safe every day and that the staff will have some stability knowing that they’re going to be in that building all year long to conduct the classes,” he said.

The conditions at Fayette County schools have been a controversial topic of discussion in recent months. Karen Ellis, a parent to a student at Rosedale Elementary School, said the structural problems is something she worries about every day when she sends her child to school.

“They’re horrible,” Ellis said about the buildings. “The kids that are at those schools that are breathing that coal dust every day, that are walking through buildings that have mold and mildew in them. Their parents fear every day that something is going to happen with the buildings falling in or caving in.”

Shawna Sparks, another parent to students at both Collins Middle and New River Elementary schools, said her kids deal with many issues every day including walking by orange fencing outside to get to their classrooms.

“It’s not what the children of this century should have to deal with to get the education that they need,” she said. “I’m very pleased that they’re (SBA) at least giving us a chance for Mr. George to present his plan, which I completely and totally and fully support.”

Sparks said there’s a lot of benefits to approving the plan which would, not only help remove children out of condemned buildings, but would also allow the county to become more financially sustainable.

Many state officials, including gubernatorial candidates Bill Cole (R-Mercer, 06) and Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02), have visited the schools in Fayette County. Snead said once they hear the county’s plan, they too, want to work with school officials to decide what the next step is.

“We haven’t really had the opportunity as a staff to get out and work with Fayette County to kind of vet all those issues out,” he said. “Given that opportunity, I think we’ll eventually help Fayette County and that’s what our job is.”

George said Fayette is requesting nearly $36.9 million in funds from the SBA over the course of three years. Fayette schools plan to fund $17 million in local dollars.

The SBA began hearing funding requests from several dozen county school systems Monday and will continue to on Tuesday, including Fayette’s plan, at the West Virginia Lottery Building.

The authority has about $50 million to distribute. Final decisions on which projects to fund will be announced next month.

Fugitive Shot Near Braxton-Lewis County Lines

ORLANDO, WV —  West Virginia State Police were assisting US Marshals to take two wanted felons into custody when Lt. Michael Baylous, state police spokesperson, said the suspects open fired on officers.

“After they decided to fire, the officers were left with no other choice than to return fire. When they did, both of them were hit,” Baylous told Hoppy Kercheval on MetroNews Talkline Tuesday.

Deputy marshals and the state police Special Operation Unit had information leading them to an unidentified female fugitive they believed to be in the area of Three Lick Road in Braxton County.

Leading up to the manhunt, police learned Peggy Chaffin, 36, of Pourtsmouth, Ohio, may have been with another fugitive, Dale Maverick Hudson, 26, of Burnsville. Chaffin was wanted on an escape charge stemming from eastern Kentucky.

Hudson was wanted in another state on a burglary charge according to Baylous.

“(Officers) went up there in the woods and did make contact with both subjects, identified themselves and gave them verbal commands to surrender,” detailed the lieutenant. “Instead they chose to utilize the firearms they had with them and fire upon the officers.”

No officers were injured according to Baylous. There was a single fatality.

“Mr. Hudson died there at the scene from, I don’t know if it was one wound or multiple wounds, but he died there at the scene. The female was airlifted to Ruby Memorial Hospital,” Baylous said.

According to U.S. Marshals, Chaffin was in stable condition in the hospital Tuesday morning. She will go before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi upon her discharge.


On Monday at approximately 2:10 PM the United States Marshals Service along with the West Virginia State Police were engaged in a fugitive apprehension mission in a rural location near Three Lick Road in Braxton County.

The fugitive was believed to be in presence of another wanted subject by the name of Dale Maverick Hudson, 26, of Burnsville, West Virginia.

Hudson was wanted for burglary, charged in another state.

When the individuals were found, officers announced their presence and asked both individuals to surrender. That is when both fired weapons at the officers which prompted the officers to return fire.

Hudson died at the scene as a result of this, while the female subject was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital with multiple wounds. No officers were injured in the exchange.

West Virginia State Police has not released the name of the female at this time.

The West Virginia State Police is investigating the shooting incident and therefore all questions concerning the matter should be directed to their public relations officer.

SBA to hear remaining construction project requests from 11 county school systems

CHARLESTON, WV — The state School Building Authority will continue to hear proposals Tuesday from the remaining 11 out of 20 counties seeking funds for their construction projects.

SBA Executive Director David Snead said the competition is tough since they only have a certain amount of money to distribute.

“We only have around $50 million to hand out, so that always creates a problem for us,” Snead said at Monday’s meeting at the West Virginia Lottery Building in Charleston. “We have to defer some projects to the next year, those kind of things.”

On Monday, Blaine Hess, the superintendent of Jackson County schools, presented a $13.3 million dollar plan which includes the construction of a new Ravenswood Middle School to replace the current school. He said the county would provide $3.1 million in local funds, leaving a $10.2 million request that is before the SBA.

“This is a different plan from the previous years. Again, we’ve looked at the enrollments at our schools as well as increased our local match significantly, so we believe that we’ve really honed this project down to make it one that will be of much interest to the SBA,” said Hess about their plan that was rejected last year.

Hess said there’s a lot of safety concerns they need to address.

“The new plan would actually allow much of the Ravenswood High School campus to be under one roof, so that that would be a great improvement to school safety in Jackson County,” he said.

Jackson County’s plan would also enhance academic programs, in terms of technology, if students were to be placed in newer facilities, Hess said.

The Harrison County school system is also looking to secure funding from the SBA for their project. Harrison School Superintendent Mark Manchin presented their plan Monday to the SBA which includes the building of a new Johnson Elementary School in Bridgeport. The current facility is nearly 65 years old.

“We’re excited about this opportunity,” Manchin said about the $17 million project. “We’re going to be providing $6 million, which is a little more than 35 percent of the whole project.”

Health and safety is a big concern for Harrison’s project, but Manchin said their plan really focuses on what a newer facility would provide.

“These older buildings, these 60, 70 and 80 year old buildings that still exist here in West Virginia don’t have the infrastructure available to provide high speed Internet access. It just simply doesn’t provide the same quality of education that the newer buildings do,” he said.

The SBA also heard requests Monday from county school systems in Doddridge, Tucker, Wirt, Pocahontas, Barbour, Braxton and Calhoun.

On Tuesday, Fayette County School Superintendent Terry George will be the first county to present its plan to the SBA. The plan was reconsidered Monday after it was rejected in September.

Snead said there are still some questions with Fayette’s plan, which would combine four of the county’s five high schools, but they want to remain fair to all 20 counties.

“I think if we can get all of the concerns behind us, they have as good a chance as all the other counties. They’ll (the other counties) have the same opportunities as all the rest of them,” he said.

The counties left to present their proposals on Tuesday also include Kanawha, Monongalia, Logan, Mason, Pleasants, Mercer, Ohio, Webster, Roane and Raleigh.

Final decisions on which projects to fund will be announced next month.

Keystone off the table, but back East, pipeline fight builds

ROCKY MOUNT, VA — Carolyn and Ian Reilly and their four children left Florida’s sprawl in 2010 to farm 58 acres in rural Virginia, raising beef cattle, chicken and hogs. Then a year ago, they learned a natural gas pipeline would slice through part of their farm and their lives took another dramatic turn.

They’ve shooed pipeline surveyors from their pastures, made anti-pipeline signs for a protest at the county courthouse and at appearances by the Virginia governor. They’ve also kept up pressure on local officials.

As the leader in this multigenerational band of family activists, Carolyn Reilly has found the experience exhilarating and bruising.

“There are days when I am in tears in frustration and exhaustion,“ she said. “Then there are days when I’m fired up and ready to fight.“

From New England to North Carolina, scattered insurgencies have formed in opposition to a spider web of pipelines up and down the Eastern Seaboard as the nation’s energy industry seeks to move pent-up natural gas supplies.

Behind the pipeline boom: vast deposits of natural gas being drilled in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio and ready for shipment to U.S. and international markets.

“Essentially, the takeaway is they’re re-plumbing the whole United States,“ said Timothy R. Carr, a West Virginia University geologist.

The battle has emerged as the East Coast version of the environmental and political drama over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which became a line in the sand for environmentalists who argue the time has passed for the world to end reliance on fossil fuels. With President Barack Obama killing that 1,179-mile energy project Friday, the snarl of proposed pipelines carrying natural gas is likely to generate more attention — from proponents and opponents alike.

The Reillys joined this fight in October 2014 when a letter arrived advising them that the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline would cross two creeks and a tangle of prized pasture land on their Four Corners Farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The $3.2 billion pipeline would stretch 300 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to Southside Virginia.

At first, the letter didn’t register.

“I mean I was just completely ignorant and I was really hesitant to respond to this,“ Carolyn said. But she soon discovered what the letter signified, and her activism kicked in. “Within a day, I was connected with other people who were forming a resistance.“

But with a strong measure of political support, energy companies have responded with their own media campaigns. They are promoting natural gas as an abundant, cheaper and cleaner fuel than that from dirty coal generation. They say pipeline construction will create thousands of jobs, increased tax revenues and robust economic development.

They also argue they have been mindful of objections as they consider thousands of miles of routes. Along the way they’ve offered hundreds of adjustments — including burrowing into a Virginia mountain to sidestep the habitat of a threatened salamander.

But opponents are unmoved, and they’re vowing to crimp those lines through grass-roots activism.

Seated around a table and bowls of a hearty soup made from their farm-bred chickens, the Reillys represent virtually every point of view of pipeline opponents.

Ian resents the taking of land through eminent domain and the damage from carving routes through forests, mountains and streams. Carolyn objects primarily for climate change reasons, while her father, Dave Werner, is a retired commercial banker who doesn’t buy the touted jobs and economic benefits.

All said they’re committed to this battle, including civil disobedience.

“If we have to, we’ll chain ourselves to trees — we’ll do whatever we need to in order to stop or slow down the process,“ Ian Reilly said.

Carolyn Reilly has enlisted her children, ages 6 to 15, to draw signs and attend protests. She has filed public records requests with county officials to ensure the community is fully informed; and joined other activists in North Carolina for training on environmental activism. Her oldest, Jonas, has stood guard, watching for surveying teams.

The anti-pipeline movement feeds in part on anti-fracking protests long aimed at the drilling practice that opened up access to natural gas in deep shale formations in such places as Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Some simply don’t want energy drawn from the earth.

“In recent years, more and more environmental groups are using pipelines almost as a proxy war, whether it’s natural gas or they just don’t like fossil fuels,“ said Cathy Landry, a spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

Virginia has become an epicenter of the anti-pipeline movement because of two massive projects and others in the works.

Besides Mountain Valley, Dominion Resources and its energy partners, including Duke Energy, have proposed a $5.1 billion Atlanta Coast Pipeline that would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, traveling through some stretches of fragile environments over its 564-mile route.

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance is a coalition of more than three dozen organizations in Virginia and West Virginia opposed to the pipeline’s possible path through two national forests, among other natural attractions.

“Energy is indeed important and energy is important in creating new jobs. I get that,“ said Lewis Freeman, a spokesman for the alliance. “But that does not mean the value of energy to our economy trumps all other values. I think what’s at stake here is a conflict of values.“

As for concerns another fossil fuel simply adds to the planet’s climate woes, the energy industry counters that the U.S. isn’t anywhere near to fully moving into solar, wind or other alternatives. They cast natural gas as a bridge fuel away from coal, which is being phased out by utilities to meet new federal rules to reduce carbon emissions.

Carr, the West Virginia geologist, said the current energy options are imported oil, natural gas or coal, with wind and solar still decades away from filling the gap.

“Those are your choices,“ he said. “Or maybe you don’t want your lights turned on.“

Upshur County man killed after tractor rolls over embankment

FRENCH CREEK, WV — A fire official says an Upshur County man has died in a farm tractor accident.

Adrian Fire Department chief Rick Harlow told the Inter-Mountain that the man was driving the tractor when it ran off the edge of an old logging road and rolled over an embankment.

Harlow says the accident occurred Sunday on the victim’s property. The man died at the scene.

West Virginia State Police are investigating.

The victim’s name wasn’t immediately available.

West Virginia Rivers Coalition Receives $80,000 Grant

A Virginia foundation has awarded an $80,000 grant to the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

The coalition says the two-year grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment will support its efforts to promote responsible water policies.

The funding will be used to provide science-based analysis of proposed policies affecting water quality statewide. Other projects include a campaign to establish a Birthplace of Rivers National Monument in the southern Monongahela National Forest.

The coalition announced the grant Monday in a news release.

AEP transmission project aims to increase extreme weather reliability in Cabell and Lincoln counties

CHARLESTON, WV — Appalachian Power plans to begin work soon on a new transmission project to increase reliability during extreme temperatures for customers in Cabell and Lincoln counties.

The project is a $20 million investment in the company’s transmission grid and includes building a substation and about four miles of transmission line.

After a few hard winters reliability has become a top concern for the company, Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said.

“The purpose of the project is to improve reliability during extreme weather periods when demand is highest on our system,” Moye said. “In 2014, when we had the polar vortex, during those extreme winter weather temperatures, we identified the need in a couple of spots for additional transmission lines.”

The new transmission line originates from an existing line just south of Culloden. The line runs southwest through Cabell County, crossing Charleys Creek and Little Two Mile Creek roads.

Lines have to be repaired every now and then to ensure reliability in extreme cold or heat, Moye said.

“When a line is too heavily loaded, we risk losing that line under extreme weather conditions, whether that’s extremely cold weather or hot weather,” Moye said. “When we see the demand getting up to the line’s limit, we look at ways that we can fix that and make sure it continues to be reliable.”

Construction is expected to start in the fall 2016 and be completed by the end of 2017. Moye explained that any effects on rates should be down the road, and would be small.

“We really won’t file for any recovery of the costs for that until the project is completed. It’s going to be a while down the road before we see any rate impact. But even when we do, you’re talking pennies,” Moye said.

Additional information about the project, including maps, structure photos and a timeline, can be found H E R E.

Plans for Wood County’s Coldwater Creek building could be announced soon

MINERAL WELLS, WV — State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said last week that a new tenant for the former Coldwater Creek building in Wood County could very well be announced by the end of the year.

Burdette wouldn’t specify exactly who, but said last week two companies have their eye on the site.

“There’s at least one major U.S. corporation that has been looking at it very seriously recently and one large regional company that’s looking at it,” said Burdette.

Located near the Mineral Wells exit off of of Interstate 77, the Coldwater Creek building closed in 2014 after the Idaho-based company filed for bankruptcy. Burdette said there’s still valuable equipment left behind.

“The sorters are still there; they were left when Coldwater Creek went bankrupt,” Burdette said. “I think it will lend itself to either another distribution company, but I think it’s also been looked at by several manufacturing companies.

No matter what the outcome, Burdette anticipated the new use of the site will create more jobs.

“There’s no question. Either one of the prospects would bring new jobs,” he said. “The (national company) that’s looking it would (bring all new jobs).”

Burdette said there had been a lot of inquiries on the site, and he expected a decision before the beginning of January 2016.

“We actually anticipate that there will be some decisions shortly. Certainly in the next few weeks. I wouldn’t think any later than the end of the year,” he predicted.

The building is owned by the Wood County Development Authority.

PEIA to Hold More Hearings on Public Employee Benefit Cuts

The West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency will hold three public hearings this week on proposed cuts to state employees’ health benefits.

The first hearing was set for Monday at West Virginia Northern Community College’s B&O Building in downtown Wheeling. Another hearing will be held Tuesday at the Charleston Civic Center. The third hearing is scheduled Thursday at Tamarack in Beckley.

Each hearing will begin at 6 p.m.

Under a plan approved by the PEIA’s finance board, premiums wouldn’t increase for state and public school employees, who comprise the majority of enrollees. But their deductibles would increase by $500 for single coverage and $1,000 for family coverage.

Retirees would see an 8 percent increase in premiums. Non-state employees would see a 3 percent premium increase.

NewsWest Virginia

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The system’s president and the head of its flagship campus say they’re leaving after months of student anger over the school’s handling of racial issues.


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Record Siberia Snowfall Could Be Bad News for U.S.

Snowfall in Siberia during October has proved to be a remarkably accurate indication of how cold winters in the US will be, according to meteorologist Judah Cohen—and it looks like this winter could be a doozy. Siberia experienced record snowfall and its worst blizzard in 10 years this October, meaning the “Arctic Oscillation” pattern could once again cause the polar vortex to put the US’ Northeast in a deep freeze, reports USA Today. But Cohen, an Atmospheric and Environmental Research scientist who describes himself as a “weather weenie,“ says the very strong El Nino pattern has made this year more complicated than most and for now, he predicts mild weather in the short term.

“The snow cover is the most efficient reflector of sunlight out into space, so more snow cover creates dense air masses that stay close to the ground,“ Cohen told the Boston Globe earlier this year while explaining why such an immense amount of snow had fallen on the city, and how Siberian snow predicted it. University of Albany polar vortex expert Andrea Lang tells the Albany Times Union that while mild weather may lie ahead until around Christmas this year, the vortex is currently stronger than usual, which raises the risk of it becoming weaker than usual later in the season, sending fiercely cold weather south.

Cops: Michigan School Shooting Foiled

Police in Michigan say posts on Instagram led them to a plot to carry out a shooting rampage at a high school and middle school. Ryan Stevens, an 18-year-old former student at Linden High School and Linden Middle School in Argentine Township, around 50 miles northwest of Detroit, is the oldest of three teenagers arrested in connection with the alleged plot, reports WXYZ. Lamar Dukes and Cody Brewer, both 15, have also been arrested and will face charges that include conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, NBC News reports. All three have been charged as adults and could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Sadly, these things happen a lot across the country and you have to take them seriously,“ Argentine Township Police Chief Daniel Allen tells USA Today. “I took it seriously. The FBI took it seriously. Obviously, by the charges, the prosecutor took it seriously.“ He says the arrests were made more than a week ago, but they were kept quiet until now because investigators wanted to make sure that everybody involved in the plot was in custody. Police, who have not disclosed a motive but say one is becoming clear, say the teens already had access to firearms and planned to buy more, WXYZ reports.

Parking Lot Chasm Swallows 12 Cars

A cave-in of a restaurant parking lot in Mississippi swallowed 12 cars, and experts are expected to begin work Monday to determine the cause of the collapse, authorities say. No one was reported injured when the pavement gave way outside the IHOP restaurant in Meridian Saturday night, leaving a long gash in the ground into which the vehicles tumbled. Meridian Public Safety Director Buck Roberts tells the Meridian Star that the collapse was not the result of a sinkhole, which is generally caused when an underground water aquifer dries and leaves a void in the ground.

“You can call it what you want, a cave-in or whatever, but it is not a sinkhole,“ says Roberts. Engineers and contractors will be on the scene Monday studying the site, he says. Emergency crews were called to the restaurant on Saturday evening and found a section of parking lot about 35 feet wide and 400 feet long had collapsed. Cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles had dropped into the gash in the earth, which appeared to be about 15 feet deep. “We’d been in there about three minutes,“ a woman whose daughter’s car fell into the chasm tells the Star. “Then everything went black and we heard a boom.“

Hungry Bears Invade California Town

Black bears driven from the mountains by drought have invaded a town outside of California’s Sequoia National Park in search of food. A record number of bears are seeking acorns in the tiny town of Three Rivers, home to an eclectic mix of park employees, ranchers, and hippies and a retreat for celebrities that include Anjelica Huston and William Shatner. The four-year drought shriveled the berry crop in the Sierra Nevada, and parched hillside oaks produced fewer acorns, forcing bears into river valleys. Everyone seems to have photos and stories of bear encounters.

Bears have climbed on roofs for acorns, and one was found exploring a bathroom under renovation in a house. A bear tore apart the outer walls of a resident’s pump house and a music studio to get at acorns a woodpecker had stowed in the siding. They’ve knocked over plenty of garbage cans and raided fruit trees and grapevines. They did a number on the apple orchard at Shatner’s Belle Reve ranch, according to the caretaker, who says he got a permit to kill the culprits but didn’t use it during the two-week period it was valid. The local newspaper has reported killings, though game wardens say they’re not investigating because they have no evidence of poaching.

Legally Blind Barber Gets $100K for Wrongful Termination

A legally blind barber was awarded $100,000 by a Massachusetts commission against discrimination after it says he was wrongly fired. The Boston Herald reported Saturday that Joel Nixon had been working for Tony’s Barber Shop in Norton for a year before his boss discovered his condition. The 29-year-old has retinitis pigmentosa, which affects his peripheral vision and makes it hard for him to see at night. He’s been declared legally blind by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and Nixon said there’s a possibility he may lose his sight forever.

But Nixon said it hasn’t affected his work. Barber shop owner Tony Morales fired him in 2012 after he tripped over a customer’s legs and then later that day tripped over a chair in the waiting room, Nixon said. Morales disputes Nixon’s account, saying Nixon wasn’t a licensed barber and simply wasn’t pulling his weight in the shop. “It’s a bunch of lies,“ he told the Herald. “All of this is false accusations.“ Morales said he plans to appeal the state’s decision, which awarded Nixon $75,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress. Nixon said after his firing he struggled to find employment, saw his condo go into foreclosure, and was forced to apply for food stamps and appeal to charities for Christmas gifts for his family.

Texas Crash Victim’s Last Words: ‘I’m Not a Pilot’

“I’m not a pilot.“ Those were the last words of a vacationing Englishman moments before he crashed a WWII-era P-51 Mustang into the sea outside Galveston, Texas, in 2013, the Telegraph reports. John Busby was vacationing with his wife for their 41st wedding anniversary when he paid the Lone Star Flight Museum for a ride in the vintage airplane. The results of the investigation into the crash that ensued were released this week.

About 20 minutes into the flight, the on-board video recording shows pilot Keith Hibbert ask Busby, 66, if he wants to try flying the plane, the Telegraph reports. Hibbert responds: “Yes I do, if you guide me through it. I’m not a pilot.” Seconds later a fisherman saw the Mustang smash into the ocean, killing both men. “It was probably due to the pilot’s loss of situational awareness while he was instructing his passenger,“ the coroner states. The death of both men was ruled “accidental.“

Student Sues Cops for Violent Campus Arrest

Jaclyn Pazera was sitting in her philosophy class at Illinois’ College of DuPage last December when two officers came in, tipped her desk over with her in it, and forcefully arrested her, the AP reports. Her alleged crime: smoking a cigarette on campus, apparently. Pazera filed a lawsuit against the two officers Thursday, claiming they used excessive force—resulting in several injuries—and violated her civil rights, according to Raw Story. The incident started when a campus police officer warned Pazera and a few other students not to smoke on campus. After Pazera declined to provide identification to the officer, he followed her to class and called for backup, the lawsuit claims. What happened inside the classroom was recorded by Pazera’s teacher and another student.

Raw Story reports Pazera finally did show the officer her student ID after she was confronted by him and a second officer inside her philosophy class. The officers allegedly told her they were arresting her for trespassing anyway, slammed her to the ground, and handcuffed her. Video recorded by Pazera’s teacher shows Pazera insisting that she isn’t resisting arrest and begging to be let up, according to the AP. The lawsuit claims Pazera was “manhandled” and suffered wrist and shoulder injuries. It also claims the officers used a stun gun to threaten a student recording the incident and confiscated his cellphone. They didn’t know the teacher was also filming them, Raw Story reports. Pazera was charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. Those charges were dropped months later. According to AP, the college is launching an investigation.

Autistic Teen Saves Choking Classmate

An Autistic teenager in New York is being hailed as a hero after saving a classmate who was choking on an apple, the Staten Island Advance reports. Brandon Williams, 13, was eating lunch October 28 when he saw Jessica Pellegrino—a fellow special-needs student—struggling to breath. He tells the New York Daily News he knew what to do because he saw what SpongeBob SquarePants did when Squidward was choking on a clarinet on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon. He picked Jessica up off the ground and performed a perfect Heimlich maneuver. “He picks up on things that most of us would miss and files it all away in his head, and he can recall it all in an instant,“ Brandon’s dad Anthony Williams tells the Advance. “That’s how he knew instantly what to do. And we’re glad he did. We’re proud of him.“

Brandon’s paraprofessional, a retired police officer named Brian Griffin, was in the lunchroom that day and heard the commotion when Jessica started choking, the Advance reports. “I was ready to jump in, but Brandon had it,“ Griffin says. “He was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.“ Anthony Williams tells the Daily News it’s a positive lesson for the autism-spectrum community. “There’s no limits to what these kids can do,“ he says. “Don’t ever think they can’t do anything as they go on in life and as they get older.” As for Brandon—who says he watches SpongeBob Squarepants all day—the hug and thanks he got from Jessica was enough, the Advance reports. “I don’t need a medal,“ he says. “I’m good. I’m good.“

Texas Judge Shot Outside Her Home

A Texas judge was shot outside of her Austin home Friday night, and an initial investigation appears to show she was targeted, KXAN reports. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Judge Julie Kocurek—the presiding felony judge for Travis County—had just arrived home with a number of other people when someone opened fire. A neighbor says she heard “four pops.“ KXAN reports Kocurek suffered injuries to the areas around her upper body, shoulder, and face. And NBC News describes her injuries as “extremely serious.“ However she was in stable condition as of Saturday morning and is expected to recover, according to the American-Statesman. Police have not identified any suspects, and a manhunt is currently underway, KXAN reports.

While it hasn’t been confirmed, it’s likely the shooting is connected to Kocurek’s work as a judge, KXAN reports. According to the American-Statesman, the former prosecutor was recently involved in cases involving a convicted murderer suspected in a second killing 27 years ago and a woman arrested in connection with the kidnapping of her daughter in 2002. KXAN reports Kocurek recently signed warrants in the case of a former police officer accused of shooting and killing a pregnant woman in February. “It’s the most shocking news I have ever received,” a fellow judge tells the American-Statesman. “Judge Kocurek is a wonderful woman. It’s unfathomable to think that anyone would be angry with her.“

Seamstress Owes $80K for Killers’ Prison Break

The prison seamstress who helped two convicted murderers escape a New York prison by smuggling them tools hidden inside meat last summer must pay nearly $80,000 in restitution, NBC News reports. That’s in addition to the up to seven years Joyce Mitchell is currently serving for her role in the prison break. A district attorney says the $79,841 Mitchell was ordered to pay Friday is “every legal dollar” they could get out of her. According to the New York Times, that amount is the cost of repairs to walls and a steam pipe damaged during the escape of David Sweat and Richard Matt. The duo led police on a 22-day, 1,000-officer manhunt in June. It could have been worse for Mitchell—who blamed depression for her role in the escape; the state initially estimated the cost to repair damages at $120,000.

Widow: I Planned on Feeding Husband to Birds

The widow of a an 88-year-old Indiana man whose body remained in his home for as long as nine months after death has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges, and admitted that she wanted his body to be eaten by birds. Fifty-six-year-old Ila Solomon of Lafayette pleaded guilty to failure to report a dead body and unlawful disposition of a dead body Friday in Tippecanoe County. She’s due to be sentenced December 21. She faces up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The Tippecanoe County coroner has said Gerald Gavan Jr. had been dead for at least nine months when his body was discovered in May 2014. Solomon says he had been dead only a few days, and she planned on feeding him to birds: “That’s right,“ she tells WLFI. “Because Scooter was a WWII veteran, and when he got to the beaches in Normandy his friends were already being eaten by the birds.“ She says Gavan wanted his corpse eaten by birds like those of soldiers with whom he served.

‘Dungeon Woman’ Learns Her Fate

A woman who kept mentally disabled adults captive in the basement of a Philadelphia home and in other states for their disability checks was sentenced Thursday to life in prison. Linda Weston, 55, apologized during the hearing, saying, “I believe in God and God knows what happened.“ US District Judge Cynthia Rufe replied that “there are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened too,“ according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Weston pleaded guilty in September to all 196 counts against her that also include kidnapping, racketeering conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking, and fraud. Two women she held captive later died. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a life term. Her lawyers have said she wanted to plead guilty in the interest of her children.

Several victims described their horrific experiences before Thursday’s sentencing. Weston has been in custody since October 2011, when a landlord found four bedraggled adults locked in a squalid boiler room of a home in the Tacony section of northeast Philadelphia and called police. One man was found chained to a boiler. Authorities accused Weston of using “cunning, trickery, force and coercion” to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years. They said Weston, her daughter, and three others confined the victims like “zoo animals,“ often in the dark, in basements, attics, and closets at various times between 2001 and 2011. JFK Assassination License Plates Sell for $100K

The license plates that were on the limousine carrying President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963—saved from the trash more than half a century ago—have sold for $100,000 at auction, reports WFAA. The opening bid for the plates offered by Heritage Auctions on Saturday in Dallas was $40,000, but rose quickly. The anonymous winner was described by Heritage as an “ardent Kennedy collector,“ per WFAA. “These are the plates that were on Kennedy’s limousine,“ says a Heritage rep. “Sometimes you can’t know 100% for sure; in this case, we do know 100% for sure.“

Heritage says that after the assassination, the vehicle was sent for upgrades to a Cincinnati company that retrofitted presidential limousines. When a new set of plates arrived, the old plates were discarded; company owner Willard Hess retrieved them from the trash. Hess kept the plates between books on his bookshelf. His daughter, Jane Walker, decided to sell them after keeping them in her kitchen junk drawer for years. “My sons always wanted me to put them in a safe deposit box,“ Walker told WFAA. “I figure if anyone ever came in and saw them, they wouldn’t know what they were.“

In The World….

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World Bank: Climate change could result in 100 million poor

STOCKHOLM — Climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases, the World Bank said in a report Sunday.

Released just weeks ahead of a U.N. climate summit in Paris, the report highlighted how the impact of global warming is borne unevenly, with the world’s poor woefully unprepared to deal with climate shocks such as rising seas or severe droughts.

“They have fewer resources and receive less support from family, community, the financial system, and even social safety nets to prevent, cope and adapt,“ the Washington-based World Bank said.

How to help poor countries – and poor communities within countries – deal with climate change is one of the crunch issues in talks on a global climate accord that’s supposed to be adopted next month in Paris.

Those who say that rich countries aren’t doing enough to help the poor said the report added emphasis to demands for billions of dollars in so-called climate finance to developing countries.

“The statistics in the World Bank report are suitably shocking and I hope they force world leaders to sit up and take notice,“ said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid. “The Paris deal needs to support the poor and vulnerable communities to cope with unavoidable climate crises better, and to be more resilient to a changed climate.“

Despite pledges to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, climate change isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Carbon emissions are expected to rise for many years as China, India and other developing countries expand the use of fossil fuels to power their economies.

But efforts to protect the poor, such as generally improving access to health care and social safety nets, and targeted measures to upgrade flood defenses and deploy more heat-tolerant crops could prevent most of the negative consequences of climate change on poverty, the bank said.

“Absent such good development, climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030,“ the report said.

Stephane Hallegatte, one of the authors, told The Associated Press that one of the unique features of the report was that instead of analyzing the macro-economic impact of climate change it was based in part on surveys of 1.4 million people in 92 countries.

“When we ask people why they fall into poverty there are three major factors,“ he said. “Agricultural shocks, including an increase in food prices; natural disasters such as floods, droughts, storms; and health issues, including malaria, diarrhea.“

The report referred to studies showing climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as 5 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2080. It also referenced studies showing warming temperatures could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by 150 million.

Hallegatte said the “hotspots” for climate impacts on poor people were sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The U.S. and other countries have collectively pledged to scale up climate financing to developed countries to $100 billion annually by 2020 to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their emissions. Developing countries are calling for commitments beyond 2020 in the Paris agreement but rich nations are reluctant to make firm promises, in part due to budget uncertainties.

A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated climate finance flows to developing countries reached $62 billion in 2014.

Burma Election Makes History

The opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi sounds very confident after elections that the Independent describes as the freest in Burma’s history. Her National League for Democracy party is expected to make huge gains after Sunday’s vote in the country’s first free national election in 25 years, and numerous candidates from the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party have already admitted defeat, the BBC reports. “I think you all have the idea of the results,“ Suu Kyi told cheering supporters on Monday morning, though it’s not clear whether the party will have the two-thirds majority in the country’s parliament needed to form a government, reports Reuters.

The election comes after decades of struggle by Suu Kyi, including 15 years under house arrest, but though she has said she wants to become president, the constitution bars her from the position because her two sons hold British nationality, the BBC notes. US Secretary of State John Kerry praised the election as a “testament to the courage and sacrifice shown by the people of Burma over many decades” while also describing the vote as “far from perfect” due to the disfranchisement of groups like the Muslim Rohingya minority and the reservation of seats in parliament for the military, reports the Guardian.

Search for Nazi Gold Train Gets Green Light

Investigators have finally been allowed to commence the hunt for a Nazi gold train thought to be buried near the Polish city of Walbrzych—but they’re not allowed to dig. Instead, experts will be using measuring equipment and detectors to try to get answers from the embankment that some believe hides the fabled train, the Independent reports. The experts, including a team from Krakow’s Mining Academy, “are not allowed to touch the ground,“ a city spokesman tells AFP. “They won’t be able to dig, or drill, or introduce cameras into the ground. They’re only allowed to perform a non-invasive search.“ The Polish military has spent weeks clearing the area and checking for toxins or booby traps.

The two men who claim to have used radar to detect the train and its rumored cargo of hundreds of tons of gold and gems will be joining the search and want 10% of the treasure if it’s found. Whether the train and its fabulous cargo exist or not, the international attention the search has attracted has been a bonanza for Walbrzych, a coal-mining town with high unemployment. “I’m no Indiana Jones, but my colleagues in the rest of Poland now call me the gold governor,“ the district governor tells the Guardian. “Life is tough. The young people are leaving to work abroad. But the gold train has brought a tourism boom.“

Pope on Vatican Leaks: ‘Deplorable Act That Doesn’t Help’

In his first public comments on the latest scandal rocking the Vatican, Pope Francis told followers in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that the theft of Vatican documents describing financial malfeasance inside the Holy See was a “crime” but pledged to continue reforms. The pope said that publishing the documents in two books released last week “was a deplorable act that doesn’t help.“ The books, Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi and Avarice by Emiliano Fittipaldi detail mismanagement and alleged greed in the Vatican, and are seen as part of a bitter internal struggle between reformers and the old guard. “This sad fact will certainly not distract me from the reform work that I and my collaborators are pursuing with the support of all of you,“ the pope said to cheers from the crowd.

Among the disclosures in Merchants in the Temple, Nuzzi writes that the cost of sainthood can run up to half a million dollars. Francis emphasized the documents were the result of the reforms he instituted and that measures had already been taken to address the problems. “I ask you to continue to pray for the pope and the Church without being upset” by the disclosures, the pope said. Francis has made it a top priority to reform the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia, a hive of intrigue and gossip. He appointed a commission of eight in 2013 to make recommendations after an earlier expose helped drive Pope Benedict XVI to a historic resignation. Two former members of that commission have been arrested as part of an investigation into the stolen documents.

School Consolidation Failed to Live Up to Its Promises

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Listen to the interview H E R E

As Fayette County fights over school consolidation, The Front Porch gang questions whether the promises made about school consolidation ever came true.*

Scott Finn recounts the award-winning investigation he did with Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette, Closing Costs. The series found that West Virginia failed to save money after closing 300 schools in the 1990s, and rural students suffered from long bus rides that exceeded state guidelines (see below.)

Studies show that consolidation is especially dangerous for low-income rural children, and for younger students. They suffer the most from losing their community schools, while not really benefiting from increased offerings like some high school students.

*Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Fayette County had failed to pass a school levy. It has failed to pass a levy to build new schools, but is has passed an excess levy to provide school funding.

Subscribe to “The Front Porch” podcast on iTunes or however you listen to podcasts.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available above.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you’d like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @

Here is a summary of the “Closing Costs” series findings:

Between 1990 and 2002, West Virginia has closed well over 300 schools. Among the results, “Closing Costs” reports the following:


• The state has spent more than $1 billion on school consolidation.

• School Building Authority Executive Director, Clacy Williams, acknowledged in September 2002 that school closings didn’t save taxpayers money.

• West Virginia counties statewide spend a higher percentage of their budgets on maintenance and utilities now than they did five years ago, despite consolidation.

• The number of local administrators has increased by 16% in the last 10 years despite a 13% decrease in student enrollment (41,000 fewer students) and closing of over 300 schools.

• The number of state-level administrators increased and their salaries nearly doubled between 1990 and 2002.

• West Virginia spends more of its education dollar on transportation than any other state; rising transportation costs have forced counties to slash funding from classrooms, offices, and cafeterias.


• Elementary bus ride times are longest in counties with only one high school.

• The number of children who ride buses more than two hours a day doubled between 1992 (3908 students) and 1996 (7938 students), even though 25,000 fewer children rode buses. Seventy more schools have been closed since 1996.

• 20,000 elementary students, 11,000 middle school students and 5000 high school students take one-way bus rides longer than state guidelines of 30 minutes for elementary, 45 minutes for middle, and 60 minutes for high school. By comparison, the average American adult commute is 26 minutes.

• Referring to state guidelines for student bus rides, State Transportation Director Wayne Clutter said, “The times are too idealistic. It gives people false hope.”

• To save costs, West Virginia now retires buses after 12 years instead of 10.


• Students (and adults) interviewed for the series report that students are stressed and exhausted. Their grades slump. They participate in fewer after school activities. They have less time to spend with their parents.

• A Yale University study found that diesel bus fumes may be to blame for the dramatic rise in childhood asthma in the U.S. Students who ride buses breathe five to 15 times more particulate soot than children playing outside.


• School officials promised advanced courses, but many courses never materialized or were soon eliminated. In several counties, consolidated high schools offer fewer courses than the small schools offered prior to consolidation.

• The reporters studied documents in 10 sample rural counties and found that 100 advanced classes promised through consolidation had not been offered in the previous two years.

• Many counties dropped Advanced Placement and foreign language classes several years after consolidation.

• The statewide increase in students taking Advanced Placement classes rose only 0.5% in the last six years, and fewer than half of students who took AP exams last year passed them compared with 56% who took them in 1997.


• The state has shredded most of its documents pertaining to the 300 school closures since 1990.

• In Pendleton County, a total of $10 million in renovations and new construction was spent to close Circleville School. Students were bused over a 4,000 foot mountain to school in Franklin, the county seat. Meanwhile, Circleville residents renovated the old Circleville School as a community center for just $200,000.

• Twenty-five new courses were promised for the consolidated high school in Franklin, but only one, drama, has been offered. No Advanced Placement courses are offered, despite promises to offer five.

• Several Circleville students riding to school in Franklin were seriously injured in January 2002, when a tractor-trailer truck forced the bus off a mountain road.

~~  Scott Finn - WV Public Radio ~~

Leading Creek Elementary Took Part in A Stream Study of Leading Creek

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Fifth grade at Leading Creek Elementary took part in a stream study of Leading Creek on the border of Gilmer and Lewis counties.

Individuals from the Mountain Institute at Spruce Knob in Pendleton County traveled to the creek across from the school to complete the study on November 03, 2015.

Students learned how to determine the chemistry of the water, the land surrounding the creek, and the creatures that live in the water.

Each station explored a different aspect of the stream.

Based on their findings students were able to give the stream a grade ranging from A to F.

Predictions ranged from A to D, but based on the data students gave the stream a B to B+ ranking.

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Upshur/Tucker/Randolph County Residents Forming Solar Co-Op To Go Solar Together And Get A Discount

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Buckhannon, WV - Neighbors in Upshur, Tucker and Randolph Counties have formed a solar co-op to make it easy to save on solar while building a community of solar supporters. The group is seeking more members and will be hosting an informational meeting on November 12 (details below). The group is working with WV SUN and is sponsored by the Tucker County Renewables Cooperative.

“This is a great opportunity for folks in the area to learn about solar energy and save some money,” said Corey Chase of the Tucker County Renewables Cooperative. “I am excited to watch the group grow.”

By going solar together as a group, the co-op gets a discount through its bulk purchasing power, saving an average of 20% compared to the cost of an individual installation. The co-op solicits competitive bids from local installers in order to get the most competitive pricing. The group then reviews bids with the help of WV SUN in an installer-neutral process. This ensures co-op members get quality systems from experienced contractors. Co-op members each get an individualized proposal for their home that reflects the group discount. Each co-op member will can then decide to go solar based upon this individualized proposal. There is no obligation to buy.

“Solar is a great way to make our communities more self-sufficient,” said Karan Ireland, WV SUN Program Director. “If you’ve ever thought about going solar, now is a great opportunity to do so.”

April Keating, of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, is excited about what this means for Central West Virginia. “I think a lot of people have wanted to go solar for a long time, but they didn’t know how to get started. There are new technologies that make solar more accessible to more people. This information session is a great way to get your questions answered and find out how you can benefit from producing your own power.“

WV SUN expands access to solar by educating West Virginia residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening West Virginia’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters. The group has helped half a dozen West Virginia communities start solar co-ops.

Co-op information session:

November 12, 2015 6:00 pm

Upshur County Public Library
1150 Route 20 South Road
Buckhannon, WV 26201

What Teachers Do: A Little Common Sense In This Must-See Video

Turns out the teachers got it right. The wheels are falling off the so-called “education reform” project which dismissed the voices of teachers – and particularly their unions – with no little vitriol.

Reformers offered clear, simple answers to the supposed failings of America’s schools. High-stakes testing, they claimed, would measure failed schools and teachers. Charters would provide motivated alternatives, after failed schools were closed. Cyber schools would move education into the dot-com age. Teach for America students would supplant tired, old teachers.

Now reality is starting to bite. The Obama administration – chief apostle of high stakes standardized testing – now warns against devoting too much class time to testing and test prep. Charters have been exposed for wasting literally billions on schools that never open or close after a few months. The growing number of scams and rip-offs is too big to ignore. Teach for America students tend to leave schools before they gain the experience vital for teaching. Assailing teachers not surprisingly prompts the best to leave early. Cyber schools, a recent study reported, are so bad it is as if the students never attended school.

The most hyped charter chain – the Success Academy schools in New York City – turn out to have lists of “got to go” students who don’t perform well. It is relatively easy to lift average test scores if you eliminate the laggards.

Common sense now gets a new hearing, as parents and teachers revolt across the country. As National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García calmly explained to critics on “Morning Joe,” none of the countries that have been rising in international comparison do any of the things that the reformers tout. They make teaching an honored profession, train teachers well, mentor them constantly and pay them well. They put more resources into schools in poor neighborhoods and students in poor families. It isn’t rocket science.

And they have a better sense of what teachers do. The Campaign for America’s Future was honored to celebrate the leadership of Lily Eskelsen García at its annual Gala on October 27. And in receiving its Progressive Champion award, she treated the audience with one of the greatest riffs on teaching that I have ever witnessed. Listen to her summary of what teachers do above or here. And understand, we might be well to listen to those who teach our children, not ignore them.

To hear her entire presentation and stirring remarks by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Scott Wallace and leaders of National People’s Action, the other awardees, go to the 2015 Awards Gala page.

~~  Robert Borosage ~~

Christmas Craft Show Set for December 05 in Glenville

The Second Annual Christmas Craft Show in the Glen will take place on Saturday, December 05, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The big craft show will be held in Glenville at the GSC Criminal Justice Building (Old Kinney Shoe Factory) located on WV Hwy 5W just outside of town.

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Ann Shearer of Weston will be demonstrating chair weaving
at the Second Annual Christmas Craft Show to be held in Glenville
on Saturday, December 05.
There will be craft demonstrations throughout the day at the event.

There will be many local crafters showing and selling their handcrafted items that will include baskets, primitives, wooden products, etched glass, paintings, needle felting and so much more. Food items to be sold include jams, jellies and honey.

Throughout the day there will be craft demonstrations to include spinning, weaving, chair weaving and quilting.

Food and beverages will be served all day and door prizes will be given away.

All proceeds from table rentals benefit the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department, so come help a worthy cause and support local crafters as you get your holiday shopping done early.

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party is expected to win easily, but its road to forming a government remains filled with hurdles.


Homelessness is on the rise in the state, which has 487 homeless per 100,000 people - the nation’s highest rate per capita, according to federal statistics.


Global warming could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of disease, the World Bank says.


The GOP candidate says increased scrutiny over his life story is designed to “distract the populace, to distract me.“


Demonstrations are on the rise months after black student groups began complaining of racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white, 35,000-student campus.


Security lapses at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport draw more attention as investigators probe the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian airliner that killed all 224 on board after it left the airport.


The meeting between China’s Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou could signal a fundamental shift between the feuding neighbors.


The massive power failure plunged New York City, Boston and the entire region into darkness, affecting up to 30 million people for several hours on Nov. 9, 1965.


The Gibson acoustic was used to record “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and other hits.


The undefeated Tigers knock Ohio State from the No. 1 ranking for the first time this season.

In West Virginia….

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School systems go after construction funding before SBA

CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia School Building Authority is ready to hear from 20 counties that hope to secure funding for new school construction projects. The SBA will hear the “needs” requests Monday and Tuesday in Charleston.

The meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Monday, will start with a reconsideration of Fayette County’s proposed change in its school facilities plan. If it is reconsidered and approved, Fayette County School Superintendent Terry George will present the county’s school consolidation plan Tuesday morning.

The SBA is scheduled to hear from nine counties Monday. Superintendents will have 15 minutes each to present their projects. It begins at 10:45 with Harrison County’s proposal to build a new Johnson Elementary School. The final presentation Monday will come at 3 p.m. when Calhoun County requests funds for renovations at the county’s middle/high school building.

The authority has approximately $50 million to hand out. Final decisions will come next month.

The meetings Monday and Tuesday will take place in the West Virginia Lottery building in Charleston.

Dog Wins Award for Eating BBQ Skewer

A West Virginia dog that ate a barbecue skewer has won a national competition for most unusual pet insurance claim. The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports that the 5-year-old Boxer named Curtis beat out 11 other pets in online voting for Nationwide’s Hambone Award, named in honor of another dog that ate a ham while waiting to be rescued from a refrigerator. Curtis ate the skewer during his owner’s daughter’s birthday party in 2014. The dog was taken to a veterinary hospital, but doctors couldn’t find the skewer. Curtis returned to the vet a few months later. This time, veterinarians found the skewer when they operated to remove a baseball-sized mass between the dog’s stomach and pancreas. Curtis is now doing fine.

Fire marshals investigate arsons along Barbour County road

PHILIPPI, WV — West Virginia fire marshals are investigating several arsons along State Route 57 in Barbour County.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office told media outlets that a fire destroyed an abandoned house on October 06. An abandoned wood shop within a quarter mile of the house was set on fire on two separate occasions.

Witnesses reported seeing a man and a white sport utility vehicle at the house at the time of the fire.

A fire occurred at another house in the area on Thursday. The Fire Marshal’s Office says the owner reported hearing a loud boom and discovered that her front porch was on fire.

Agency investigates death of bald eagle in Harman area

HARMAN, WV — State authorities are investigating the death of an immature bald eagle in the Harman area.

Capt. D.A. Benson with the Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement told The Inter-Mountain that the eagle appeared to have been shot.

Benson says the eagle will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a necropsy.

The DNR is asking anyone who has information about the eagle to contact the agency.

Ex-teacher sentenced to home confinement on sex abuse charge

MARTINSBURG, WV — A former Hedgesville High School teacher convicted of sexually abusing a student will serve at least 10 years on home confinement.

Media outlets report that a judge sentenced 32-year-old Erin Steve Thomas on Friday to 10 to 20 years on home confinement, following by 15 years of supervised release.

Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge Michael D. Lorensen also prohibited Thomas from applying for or accepting a teaching position involving minors.

The Gerrardstown resident also must complete 1,000 hours of community service and register as a sex offender.

A jury convicted Thomas in June of one count of sexual abuse sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust. The Berkeley County Board of Education terminated his employment on September 30, 2014.

Maryland company relocating to WV; groundbreaking scheduled for Monday

MARTINSBURG, WV — U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito will visit the Eastern Panhandle Monday, making stops in Morgan and Berkeley counties.

After a Google internet safety event at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs, Capito is scheduled to take part in ceremonies for two businesses; a ribbon cutting for Rankin Physical Therapy’s new location in Hedgesville and a groundbreaking for Counter Top Solutions new location in the Falling Waters Industrial Park.

The state was aggressive in getting him to relocate his manufacturing and retail business from Maryland, Counter Top Solutions owner Jason Singer said.

“They came after us with some meaningful incentives,” Singer said. “Tax breaks, some grant money to help plan for the future of the business.”

Singer also touted the location along Interstate 81 and the access it gave him to Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.

The business currently has 22 employees but Singer hopes to expand that to 30 over the next several years.

U.S. Congressman Alex Mooney and Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette are also slated to attend the ceremony at 2:15 p.m. Monday.

2nd phase of Dunloup Creek floodplain buyout underway

BECKLEY, WV — The Natural Resources Conservation Service is beginning the second phase of a flood buyout project in Fayette and Raleigh counties.

Forty-eight property owners in the Dunloup Creek floodplain are eligible for buyouts. It’s not yet known whether the remaining funds will cover all of the properties.

More than 170 residents were removed from the floodplain during the $14 million project’s first phase. The federal agency has $350,000 remaining for the second phase.

Regional conservationist Gary Redden told The Register-Herald that the second phase will move forward two properties at a time as long as there is funding.

Redden says the goal is to move as many people as possible out of harm’s way.

The floodplain includes Mount Hope, Glen Jean, Red Star, Harvey and Kilsyth.

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