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Area Closings and Delays on Friday, January 22, 2016

The Gilmer Free Press
Status of Area Closings and Delays on Friday, January 22, 2016
Glenville State College Closed - Shuttle and food service will be limited  
Gilmer County Board of Education    
Gilmer County Courthouse Closing at 10:00 AM  
Gilmer County Health Department Closing at 10:00 AM  
Gilmer County Senior Center  
Minnie Hamilton Health System, Glenville Office ClinicClosing at 12:00 Noon
 
Gilmer County Schools All Closed  
Braxton County Schools All Closed  
Calhoun County Schools All Closed  
Doddridge County Schools Closing 3:00 Hours Early  
Lewis County Schools All Closed  
Ritchie County Schools All Closed  
 
Barbour County Schools All Closed  
Clay County Schools All Closed  
Harrison County Schools All Closed  
Nicholas County Schools All Closed  
Pleasants County Schools All Closed  
Roane County Schools All Closed  
Tyler County Schools All Closed  
Upshur County Schools All Closed  
Webster County Schools All Closed  
Wetzel County Schools All Closed  
Wirt County Schools All Closed  
Wood County Schools All Closed  

Please Send us your closings and delays:  ‘tellus@gilmerfreepress.net’  or   304.462.8700

STRENGTHENING WEST VIRGINIA’S EDUCATION SYSTEM

A column by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

Five years ago, when I became governor, we started down a path to strengthen and improve West Virginia’s education system. Last week, I was proud to join members of the state Department of Education, representatives from education groups and programs from across the state, and business and industry supporters to highlight changes we’ve made and partnerships that are strengthening West Virginia’s education system.

From early childhood to high school and beyond, West Virginia students now have access to more high-quality educational opportunities than ever before. We’ve increased specialized programs, expanded access to innovative learning opportunities and remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring students leave high school with the skills they need to compete on a global scale.

In order to achieve long-term success, we must address every stage of a child’s academic journey - starting with the years that are most critical to fundamental development. I’m proud West Virginia provides one of the nation’s best 4-year-old Pre-K programs, and with the help of our landmark education bill, we are also ensuring our state’s students are reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade.

By ensuring our kids are engaged in the learning process from birth and are equipped with solid education skills by the third grade, we are doing what we can to set them up for a bright future. Our future is changing, and new business investments are helping us chart a path focused on jobs that require new skills. In order to fill the jobs we are creating, West Virginia students must be equipped with knowledge and skills in high-demand areas like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

In order to ensure our students can fully develop skills in each of these emerging fields, we must make sure they are in the classroom for 180 days of instructional time. Research shows a strong correlation between time spent in the classroom and student achievement. As a result, we must use this standard to give our kids the educational opportunities they deserve.

More time in the classroom leads to additional opportunities for students to explore their interests in specialized areas of study. Because of that we must strengthen and diversify opportunities for students that allow them to capitalize on these newfound interests.

During my State of the State Address, I introduced a plan designed to do just that -Innovation in Education. This legislation overhauls existing law and reallocates nearly $2.5 million in existing education funding to reward schools for innovation and creativity.

The program is designed to give our state’s teachers and students the opportunity to better design, drive and align their educational experience with their interests and high-demand skills. Essentially, the Innovation in Education program provides flexibility similar to that offered by charter schools, but adapts the concept to better serve our state’s students - giving them the opportunity to redesign the entire school and educational day around areas of critical study and technical skills.

Once adopted, the state Board of Education will develop application eligibility and evaluation requirements for schools to be designated as an Innovation in Education school in one of four categories: 

     
  • STEM - focusing teaching methods to increase students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math;
  •  
  • Community school partnership - addressing educational, developmental, family, health and other community needs through local public/private partnerships;
  •  
  • Entrepreneurship - partnering with members of the local business community to provide students with information about related career opportunities;
  •  
  • Career pathways - helping students develop strong technical skills and streamlining courses between high schools and CTCS to help students enter the workforce.

I’m proud of the progress we have made to strengthen our education system and diversify opportunities for our students, but I know there is more work to be done. By continuing to work together with the interests of our future generation foremost in our minds, we can - and will - ensure a bright future for the Mountain State now and for decades to come.

G-OpEd™: A War on Labor

The Free Press WV

To West Virginia Voters and Workers:

In an action that should be of no surprise to anybody, our WV State Senate started off the 2016 session with another attack on workers with the introduction of Senate Bill 1, the so called, “WV Workplace Freedom Act”, also known as Right to Work.

This is another thinly disguised attack on labor and labor unions, based on the insane idea that labor is the problem and that labor is somehow parasitic on capital and is taking too much of the wealth from the owners of capital. It is part and parcel of the four decade long war on labor that has been waged by the wealthy and powerful against those who actually work for a living. This is a war that has not seen a trickle down of wealth to the working classes, or a flow of wealth from the top down, but a flow of wealth from labor to capital, resulting in an immoral and unsustainable inequity in the distribution of wealth in the United States and in WV, and a relative diminution of the rewards of working for a living.

Here are two truths to keep in mind:

  1. Capital produces nothing and capitalists, owners of capital, produce nothing. Trees do not saw themselves into lumber and lumber does not build itself into homes, steel does not organize itself into automobiles, and consumer goods do not stock themselves on shelves or sell themselves to customers. One might own a huge manufacturing facility, but without labor that facility produces nothing of value.

  2. Wealth is only produced by labor when capital is utilized to produce marketable and valuable goods and services. Workers utilize capital to produce things that have value and thus multiply the value of capital and create wealth. In the bargain, we expect the producers of wealth to be given a fair portion of the wealth they have created. Capital is totally dependent on labor for growth of wealth. Wealth flows from labor to capital, not the other way around.

A big problem is that our economic system and our government value and favor capital (stuff) and disvalue and disfavor labor, (the producers, Human Beings).  When labor is not valued, human lives are disvalued and cheapened.

If we do not take care of our creators of wealth and see that the producer class is strong and healthy, we risk having the whole system fall apart. The greed of the wealthy owners of capital, who are dependent upon and parasitic upon the producer class, cannot be fed forever without damaging the base of the system (producers or labor).

Let your WV Delegates and Senators know that you are fed up with this ongoing attack on the working people of this state. Insist that they vote against the “WV Workplace Freedom Act” and all other legislation that further erodes the standing of the actual producers of wealth in our economy, labor.

~~  Tom and Becky Berlin - Weston, WV ~~

Gilmer County Circuit Court Report

The Free Press WV

On Friday, January 15, 2016 Judge Richard A. Facemire presided over Circuit Court in Gilmer County all day.


•  One fugitive from justice from the state of Pennsylvania, Matthew Carney, waived extradition to return to his state.

He was represented by Kevin Hughart of Sissonville and authorities have until 4:00 PM Wednesday, January 27, 2016 to pick him up or entral Regional Jail will release him.


•  State of West Virginia vs. David Finley

He was sentenced to 1-5 years in the state penitentiary with sentence suspended and given 5 years probation and 6 months home confinement.

He was assessed court costs but no fine and has to do 150 hours of community service.

Special prosecutor Shannon Johnson represented the state in the matter with David Karickhoff of Sutton represented defendant.


•  Three juvenile matters were heard.


•  State of West Virginia vs. Kevin Curry

He was before the Court for pretrial motions and bond forfeiture, but due to the absence of Curry neither were heard.

Curry was represented by Bernard Mauser of Sutton.

Religious Freedom Arguments Used To Weaponize The First Amendment

The Free Press WV

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer peered over the bench at the lawyer and all but said he just didn’t buy it. “You will go out this door, and you will buy hundreds of things, if not thousands, where money will go from your pocket into the hands of people, including many government people, who will spend it on things you disagree with,” Breyer told attorney Michael Carvin at oral argument last week.

Breyer was questioning the logic behind the case the court was hearing that morning, Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association, a challenge to union fees brought by teachers and a conservative Christian educators’ association. They say their First Amendment rights are being violated by being  required to pay a union for collective bargaining. But Breyer could have been talking about any number of conservative legal claims, even if they cite different laws. Phrased as a desire to opt out, these arguments are pushing the boundaries of what counts as expression of speech or religion, and what violates it.

“You’re seeing an increasing tendency to use the First Amendment or First Amendment-like arguments by conservatives as a way of resisting various forms of regulation or progressive regulation,” said Samuel Bagenstos, a law professor at the University of Michigan Law School who oversaw civil rights at the Justice Department in the Obama administration. “The arguments that might have in the past come under the heading of ‘property rights’ or ‘freedom of contract’ now are coming under the heading of ‘free speech’ or ‘free association’ or ‘religious freedom.’”  

That phenomenon includes Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the 2014 case in which a corporation successfully claimed its religious rights were being violated by having to cover contraception on its employee insurance plan. And this term, it includes the follow-up to Hobby Lobby, Zubik v. Burwell, which could take religious refusal to a whole new place. The plaintiffs, who are nonprofit schools and charities with religious affiliations, already don’t have to pay for contraceptive coverage. But they argue that what the Obama administration calls an opt-out form is actually conscripting them in helping employees get “abortion pills,” known to most people and the medical community as birth control. Citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that sought to strengthen First Amendment protections, the groups also object to even contracting with an insurance company that is giving other people contraception.

“The legal issues in the two are distinct, but both seek to roll back important protections in the name of expressive or religious rights,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

And that’s just what has reached the Supreme Court. In lower and state courts, religious objectors, largely Catholic and Protestant Christians, are asking to be exempted from anti-discrimination law so they can refuse service at same-sex couples’ weddings. Some Catholic universities have asked for religious exemptions to block adjunct professors from unionizing at their institutions, notwithstanding the Vatican’s longtime and explicit support of unions. Hobby Lobby isn’t their only win: In 2012, the Supreme Court allowed a Lutheran school to be exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the school said a teacher counted as a minister.

Of course, to the proponents of broader religious exemptions, including Republican presidential candidates, this is nothing new — just American tradition. Answering Breyer at the Supreme Court that morning, Carvin, the attorney for the teachers who said union fees violate their First Amendment rights, said, “As to requiring people to give money to [that] which they don’t wish to give, Thomas Jefferson said that was sinful and tyrannical. James Madison famously said, requiring three pence is the thing. So it’s not at all something that we’ve invented.”

But Carvin was asking the court to accept a First Amendment argument it rejected nearly 40 years ago. Just about every legal observer thinks Carvin’s side will win and the precedent that the union fees don’t violate the First Amendment will fall. Something has changed — and liberal legal scholars fear where that change is heading.

The plaintiffs in these cases aren’t asking the courts to dissolve unions, repeal the Affordable Care Act or its contraceptive coverage requirement, or reverse the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. “Although Petitioners, as Roman Catholic entities, disagree with the Government’s goal of providing the mandated coverage, they do not challenge the legality of this goal,” some of the plaintiffs in Zubik wrote in their brief, adding, “Rather, Petitioners ask only that they not be forced to participate in this regulatory scheme in a way that violates their religious beliefs.”

The law says that government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” One of the disputes at the heart of Zubik is who decides what burden is substantial and what isn’t. The objectors say that as long as they can show their objection is genuine, they get the final word on the question. “If a religious adherent sincerely believes that taking a particular action would make him complicit in the sin of another, then courts must defer to that belief,” they wrote in their brief. The action in question: Filling out a short form that certifies their objection to the insurer or the government.

But in the contraceptive cases, the Obama administration, and almost every federal appeals court to rule on the cases so far, argue that’s not what the religious freedom law says — or how the form in question works. They contend that insurance plans cover contraceptives by default, so the opt-out form isn’t “triggering” anything. And they say that it’s not so simple as declaring your objection.  

“If the Court is going to relieve religious employers” of their obligations, wrote Brigham Young University law professor Frederick Gedicks, “then obviously the Court itself needs to police the boundaries of that exception, lest employers push those boundaries so far that the exception swallows the rule.”

The four Democratic appointees on the court made it clear how they felt on the question in a preview of the case, when the court temporarily blocked Wheaton College from complying with the contraceptive opt-out in 2014. “Not every sincerely felt ‘burden’ is a ‘substantial’ one,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.”

The exception swallowing the rule is precisely the fear that liberals have about these exemption claims. The plaintiffs in Zubik have suggested alternate ways for the government to help women to get contraception under the Affordable Care Act “without involving Petitioners,” such as a “‘public option’ to provide ‘contraception insurance’” or expanding the federal Title X program for low-income women.

But while the court doesn’t have to consider whether something is politically feasible, the facts on the ground suggest women who work for objecting institutions aren’t about to get their federal contraception cards anytime soon. Many congressional Republicans fiercely oppose the very existence of the Title X program, as well as its major beneficiary, Planned Parenthood. The “public option” for any health insurance at all, let alone one specifically related to women’s contraception, didn’t get very far the last time Congress considered it, with far more favorable numbers for liberals.

But give public employees the right to opt out of paying fees for collective bargaining, and union resources and power shrink. Poke holes in what was touted as seamless health care coverage, ensuring access to people who were previously uncovered, and it doesn’t look so seamless. Allow religious reasons to opt out of anti-discrimination law and leave the most vulnerable unprotected.

If the plaintiffs succeed, it will be partly because social conservatives will have successfully cast themselves as oppressed by the whim of the majority. “When opponents of such laws have been unable to block them entirely, they have invoked claims of religious liberty and shifted from speaking as a majority seeking to enforce traditional morality to speaking as a minority seeking exemptions from laws that depart from traditional morality,” Yale Law professor Reva Siegel and University of California law professor Douglas NeJaime recently wrote. “In this way, they can appeal to pluralism and non-discrimination to justify limiting the recently recognized rights of other citizens.”

Bagenstos agrees. “It puts liberals who have traditionally been defenders of free speech on the defensive,” he says. It doesn’t hurt that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote in many cases, is very sympathetic to First Amendment claims.

Georgetown Law professor Robin West has written that the newly broad exemption claims create “separate sovereignties,” which try to create an entirely separate regime where religious law prevails. That, she wrote, “sometimes come with profound costs to the weaker members within them, who no longer enjoy the protection of the law against the possibly abusive practices of the stronger members of their separate sovereign community.”

A legal precedent that says a “substantial burden” on religion is whatever the religious objector says it is “could open the floodgates to allow religious objectors to deny important rights and benefits to a great number of people in a variety of contexts,” says Mach. He added, “There is a history in this country of people seeking a religious exemption from a non-discrimination rule. It would be new if they prevailed.”

~~  Irin Carmon ~~

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

WHY STOCK MARKETS KEEP SLUMPING

Investors are worried that low oil prices mean there’s not that much demand for fuel - a signal of a slowing global economy.


2015 WAS EARTH’S HOTTEST BY WIDE MARGIN

From a baked Alaska to a Christmas in July, last year was the warmest year on record by far, scientists say.


NOR’EASTER GETS SET TO BLOW

The U.S. weather service warns of heavy, “perhaps crippling” snow across the northern mid-Atlantic region in the coming days.


ONCE UNTHINKABLE OUTCOME LOOMS IN DEMOCRATIC RACE

With two weeks until voting begins, Bernie Sanders is in position to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.


LATEST ATTACK ON A SCHOOL IN PAKISTAN KILLS 20

The deadly assault by Islamic militants raises questions about whether security forces are able to protect the country’s educational institutions.


WHICH VOLATILE TOPICS ARE INTERSECTING IN U.S.

Abortion and race take the stage as political adversaries spar over the fact that black women get abortions at a disproportionately high rate.


VIETNAMESE GATHER TO CHOOSE RULERS

Vietnam’s Communist Party opens an eight-day congress to name a set of leaders to govern the country for the next five years.


WHAT MESSAGE POPE IS SENDING TO DAVOS

While praising business as a “noble vocation,“ the pontiff says industry leaders have a responsibility to fight poverty.


SAT EXAM GETTING MAKEOVER

The final run for the current SAT college entrance exam will be this weekend. A revamped version debuts in March.


SOLAR SYSTEM MAY HAVE NINTH PLANET AFTER ALL

Scientists present “good evidence” for a long-hypothesized Planet X - likely a gas giant almost as big as its nearest planetary neighbor Neptune.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Board approves Marion County principal suspension

FAIRMONT, WV — A Marion County principal’s job future is questionable after a recent 4-day suspension.

Tyson Furgason, Fairmont Senior High School Principal, has not been to work since January 04.

He was suspended by the superintendent, which board members deemed appropriate at their Tuesday meeting.

Furgason was accused of not meeting his daily job demands.

According to reports, there was no mention of when Furgason may return to work.

Fairmont police confirmed on January 08 no criminal charges were being filed against Furgason.

Lt. John Murphy said there was no physical evidence of a crime the day Furgason left the school.  Prosecutors were considering the matter a personnel issue.


►   MANCHIN STATEMENT ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARACOMA MINE DISASTER

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued the following statement on the 10th anniversary of the Aracoma mine disaster:

“Today, Gayle and I join all West Virginians in remembering the brave miners we tragically lost 10 years ago at Aracoma. My thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones today, and I want them to know that the miners and their families will always be remembered. In their honor, we have passed historic legislation, which increased the number of emergency rescue chambers in mines and placed more than 40,000 new personal breathing devices in underground mines. However, today serves as a reminder that we must continue to make improvements so our miners’ lives are never in jeopardy. My number one priority is protecting the safety of our workers, and I will continue to fight to improve mine safety so our miners are always able to come home safely.”


►   WV DEP making final push to get all above ground storage tanks registered

CHARLESTON, WV — The DEP estimates that more than 90 percent of the tanks they have inventoried as part of the Above-ground Storage Tank law are now compliant, but are still trying to get all tanks throughout the state registered.

“We believe that there probably are some folks out there who have probably not yet registered,” DEP Above-ground Storage Tank Program Manager Ruth Porter said. “And as we are getting tips on that, whether it comes from staff or coming from the public, we are following up on that.”

Porter said the main priority is still locating and inspecting tanks in the zones of critical concern–Level 1 tanks.

“Our higher priority is we’re starting to get out and do some inspections, and we’re trying to prioritize those to look at Level 1 tanks,” she said.

Inspectors are looking to make a big final push to get every tank registered within the confines of the law.

“Definitely ramp it up, getting inspectors out there, moving around looking at things, and following up on tips that we’re receiving from other parts of the DEP or citizen complaints,” Deputy Chief Inspector Joe Sizemore said.

In many cases, the DEP reports that unregistered tanks have been a result of some miscommunication.

“We’ve heard from some folks, as we’ve found unregistered tanks, that some people say they have not even heard about the AST act,” Porter said. “We’ve heard from some folks that they just thought it was going to go away.”

The DEP isn’t sure how many more need to be registered, but they estimate that more than 10,000 Level 1 and Level 2 tanks are registered; thousands more have been registered as well.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were,” she said. “Just a couple of years ago we had no tanks registered. Now we have over 44,000 registered.”

Issues of compliance have mainly centered on three violations: failure to register, potentially lacking in secondary containment, and a large number of failure to properly label the tanks.

“When they register their tanks, each tank is assigned a unique identification number by the agency,” Sizemore said. “They have to have that number on their as well as two phone numbers; the emergency contact for the tank owner or operator and the DEP spill line.”

Porter said it’s important that the DEP and tank-owners work together in unison to get the job done.

“We’re trying very hard to work with everyone, trying to make sure that everyone understands what the rules and regulations are, and what needs to be done,” Porter said. “That is our highest priority right now.”

The deadline to register ASTs was July 01, 2015.

The DEP’s proposed AST program rules will go through the legislative process during the 2016 session. For more details about the requirements for tank registration, spill plans, spill plan exceptions or the AST program in general, go to the DEP’s online AST page: www.dep.wv.gov/tanks.


►   WV Health department officials balk at proposed 25 percent cut to state aid

CHARLESTON, WV — The 49 local health departments in West Virginia will have to operate with 25 percent less funding for basic health services if Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed reduction to state aid for those departments remains in the final 2017 budget.

“We were anticipating a five, maybe ten percent cut which would have hurt, but would be survivable,” said Dr. Lee Smith, health officer and executive director of the Monongalia County Health Department.

“This, I think, is going to create some real difficulties for, particularly, the smaller health departments.”

Smith was in Charleston Wednesday for an emergency meeting of the executive council for the West Virginia Association of Local Health Departments.

The meeting was organized in response to what adds up to a $4,000,000 total cut to the current funding level for health departments in the new budget submitted to the Legislature under the line item for state aid for local and basic public health services like environmental health, epidemiology, communicable diseases, health promotions and surveillance.

Going forward, leaders of local health departments are being told to hold meetings to discuss the possible reduction and how it could affect local citizens and health department functions.

Each department has been charged with developing a contingency plan for absorbing the cut, if Tomblin cannot be persuaded to reconsider using statewide data that’s being gathered.

In Randolph County, Linda Sanders, administrator for the Randolph-Elkins Health Department, estimated the proposed reduction would add up to a loss of $60,000 annually in funding.

“That’s a large cut, 25 percent, when you look at the budget and other programs weren’t cut that much,” she said, asking, “Where is the health of West Virginia if you cut basic public health services?”

In addition to state aid, funding sources for local health departments include county and municipal support, service fee income, grants and fundraising.

Julie Miller, administrator and nurse practitioner for the Boone County Health Department, said county level funding in Boone County has been reduced by between 45 percent and 47 percent this year.

“When you’re in public health, you learn how to work miracles,” she said when asked how the department was still operating. “We’re there to protect.”

Officials with local health departments have been involved in the response to the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill in Kanawha County, tuberculosis outbreaks, vaccinations and health care training regarding potential Ebola outbreaks, as examples.

They’re charged with inspecting food establishments and work to ensure that hotels, nursing homes, day care centers and other facilities are operated in ways the protect the public’s health.

“If public health is working correctly, it will always be in the background. The only time you see public health in the foreground is when there’s some sort of problem,” Smith noted.

Sanders agreed.

“People take it for granted until, like in Kanawha County, they had the water thing or you have a large disease or a food outbreak. You don’t have those things because local health departments are doing their jobs,” she said.

“They’re doing what they’re supposed to do — protect the public.”

It’ll likely be March before West Virginia lawmakers finalize the 2017 state budget. Tomblin does have line item veto power.


►   College student charged in hammer attack near campus

BUCKHANNON, WV — Police say a West Virginia Wesleyan College student has been charged with attacking another student with a hammer near campus in Buckhannon last month.

Jackson Dalton Tyler is charged with malicious assault. It isn’t clear whether Tyler, a 21-year-old Cross Lanes resident, has an attorney.

Officials say Robert Brunswick was injured during the December 5 attack and had to undergo medical treatment.

Six others ranging in age from 19 to 23 were charged with felony aiding and abetting malicious assault. They were released on bond.

School spokeswoman Rochelle Long says Wesleyan is conducting its own investigation into the incident.


►   People Ordered Out of Homeless Encampment

The mayor of West Virginia’s capital city has ordered a few dozen homeless people to leave a makeshift tent city along a Charleston

Mayor Danny Jones says property owner Waste Management had asked for the removal of up to 30 people who were camped out along the Elk River. Media outlets report police and city workers removed them on Tuesday.

Outreach specialist George Lively of social services agency Prestera Center says they were being taken to area homeless shelters or to stay with friends.

Jones says there were plenty of shelters to provide them places to sleep.

Residents earlier this week donated blankets, sleeping bags, coats and propane heaters to homeless people at the location as temperatures dipped into the single digits.

The End of Saudi Arabia?

The Free Press WV

A more detestable regime than Saudi Arabia could not be found.  Arguably the most repressive regime on earth.  An absolute monarchy.  A Wahhabist theocratic nightmare that arms ISIS.  Only North Korea may be worse, and North Korea does not put women in burqas or have any areas where female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced.  It is a close call.  At least North Korea does not ban alcohol.

Make no mistake about it: Shi’a Iran, as bad as it is, is nowhere near as oppressive as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).  There are churches in Iran, albeit persecuted.  There are none in the KSA.  Not even a façade of tolerance.  If Iran and the Shi’a-led Hezb’allah are the world’s chief exporters of terror, it is because they are more competent than Sunnis, not because their tyranny is darker than the KSA’s Wahhabism. 

The Saud family came from the Arabian interior (the Najd) to overrun the west coast of the peninsula (the Hejaz – the historic center of Islam) in 1925.  The Najd had survived mostly immune from imperial expansion basically because it was a useless wasteland that no one thought worth conquering, a unique honor it shares only with Antarctica.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire, followed by British meddling, eventually led to the Saudi takeover of the whole area from their chief rival, the Husseins of Mecca.

The present worldwide depression – let’s call it what it is, not a recession – is partly the direct result of Saudi manipulations.

Fracking, particularly in the United States, was on the verge of making the USA independent of oil imports.  Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and China were all starting to frack.  As technology got cheaper, Saudi Arabia knew that, left unchecked, one day the world would break free of Muslim oil extortion, and their cash cow would be kaput.  The KSA, which produces little else, would be back to selling sand, and the Quranically approved as healthful camel urine – but since dromedaries are not unique to the peninsula, even that market would be lost to them.

The Saudis have been at this oil price manipulation game for over 40 years.

The OPEC nations, led by the KSA, created a worldwide recession with the oil embargo in 1973, to protest Israel’s victory in the Yom Kippur War.  Afterward, the price of oil would double.  Nations that were on the verge of a middle-class breakthrough, like Brazil, were throttled back to poverty after the enormous price-gouging.  The USA became frozen as a net importing nation.  This set back Westernization, and the Industrial Revolution, for decades in the emerging world.

Initially, to keep oil prices up, the Saudis would drop production by 75%.

However, the artificially high cost of oil led to massive exploration.  North Sea oil came online.  The Saudis were starting to run budget deficits, and they blinked.  They decided to drop prices and sell more oil to break the competition.

The ‘80s price drop crushed the nascent shale industry for decades here in the USA.  American energy independence was forestalled, as the Saudis wanted.
The low price of oil eventually gave way to price increases as Chinese industrialization came online with massive demand.  By 2008, oil was at $145 a barrel.  Of course, the 2008 crash brought some relief to that.

At the same time, fracking was taking over and competing with Saudi crude.  There was serious talk of the USA becoming oil-independent.  The KSA was in a real fix, and everyone knew it.  Small nations, like Ireland, were pondering becoming oil-rich. Ojalá!  Even the detested Jews were swimming in oil.

In 2014, the Saudis decided to dump oil on the market at low prices again in order to drive foreign competitors out of business, as they had in the 1980s.  Once the American frackers were broke, once the cost of Israeli drilling became prohibitive, and after everyone else was shut down, the Saudis could ratchet up the price all over again.  This would also have the benefit of destroying the hated Shi’a mullahs of Iran, with their nuclear program that threatens the Sunni KSA.  A poorer Iran would mean no Iranian nukes to worry about.  No Iranian sponsorship of Syria’s Assad.

Price-fixing at its worst.  Were this done inside a country, it would be illegal.  The Saudis get away with it because they are independent.

The price drop has had a massive effect on the market.  Some U.S. frackers went bust.  Brazil’s Petrobras is selling assets on a fire sale.  Much of China’s and Brazil’s economies has collapsed.  Chinese oil firms took a massive hit.

The economic devastation you see all around, as markets collapse, is due in no small part to the KSA’s manipulations – manipulations that have throttled progress for decades.

However, the Saudis have made a major blunder this time.  Technology is still making fracking cheaper.  So a considerable number of frackers are waiting out the storm.  Once the Saudis raise prices, American exploration will be back online quickly.  The KSA is fighting a losing battle.

Worse yet, any increase in prices will also help Iran’s budget.  It seems the KSA is stuck at the bottom of the price graph, damned no matter what its monarch does.

In five years, the KSA’s foreign reserves are expected to be emptied out.  Already, the KSA is dropping internal subsidies on electricity and domestic gasoline.  The local people are upset.  Upset Muslims means violent revolution.

For over forty years, this blight of a tribe has caused recessions, caused depressions, and damaged the planet’s economy.  They got wealthy by re-impoverishing an emerging Third World, starting with the artificially created 1973 oil crisis.  They have used their oil wealth to sponsor terrorism (as has Iran).  Rather than investing wisely in industry to pick up market slack to become a modern diversified economy, they have invested instead in subsidizing mullahs, arming Salafist extremists in Syria, and exporting Islam around the world.

Now they have no options.  Any increase in prices will restart American, European, and Chinese frackers.  Failure to increase prices will bankrupt them.  As a further blessing, we Americans will no longer have to hear the caterwauling idiocies of environmentalist Chicken Littles screaming about “peak oil.“

What the USA can do is protect its fracking industry by severely taxing any oil imports under $50 a barrel.  This may upset some free marketers, but the price of oil is rigged.  We should rig it in our favor, and insulate ourselves from Saudi manipulations.

Good riddance to the KSA – a corrupt, vicious regime!  May their next chief export be bottled camel urine.  I wish America had never gotten involved with them.

~~  Mike Konrad ~~

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Woman Froze to Death as Helpless Husband Lay Nearby

Authorities in central Georgia say a 74-year-old woman froze to death after she tried to help her wheelchair-bound husband outside their home. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills tells local news outlets that Maria Riffe died Thursday while her immobile husband was about 20 yards from her, each unable to help the other. Roy Riffe, 86, was in a motorized wheelchair going down the concrete walkway at their home when he ran off the walkway and fell out of the wheelchair. Sills says Maria Riffe, who relied on a walker, fell while trying to help her husband, leaving both helpless. Investigators say Roy Riffe was likely able to survive the night because he was wearing a jacket and fleece pants. His wife was only wearing a dress.


►   Snowmobile Disaster Leaves Woman Dead, Son Frostbitten

Sheriff’s officials found a woman dead of exposure and her teenage son suffering from frostbite Tuesday, ending a three-day search for a family of three that went missing amid a series of mishaps while snowmobiling in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains. Searchers had found the father in good condition Monday after he went for help and became separated from the other two. The couple’s 18-year-old son was being treated at a Colorado hospital and was in stable condition, Albany County Undersheriff Robert DeBree said. Officials weren’t identifying the Cheyenne family. Both parents were 46.

Multiple problems—harsh weather and malfunctioning machines—built into a disaster that played out over three days and nights. Heavy snow and strong winds slammed the southeast Wyoming mountains Saturday night. That was the last thing the Cheyenne family needed after one of their three snowmobiles broke down during an outing in the Medicine Bows. The family built a fire and spent Saturday night in a snow cave, DeBree said. Attempts by the father to find help Sunday failed when another snowmobile got stuck in ice and the handlebars of the third broke off, stranding him away from the others. Searchers found him Monday after he spent a second night in the mountains in a snow cave.


►   Greyhound Bus Flips on Side, Kills 2

A Greyhound bus rolled onto its side during a rainy Tuesday morning commute in Northern California, killing two women and sending at least eight others to the hospital, authorities said. Several victims suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene in San Jose or were ferried to a hospital in a local commuter bus to be checked out by medical personnel for bruises and cuts. One person suffered major injuries and three others were being treated for moderate injuries, the California Highway Patrol said. The Greyhound bus carrying 20 passengers and the driver rolled onto the center divider of Highway 101, a major commuting thoroughfare, while heading north around 6:40am, said Lanesha Gipson, a Greyhound spokeswoman.

The vehicle left Los Angeles at 11:30pm Monday with stops planned in San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, Gipson said. The driver, who was one of those sent to the hospital, began his shift in LA, and the company requires operators to rest nine hours between trips, she said. The accident is under investigation. The National Safety Transportation Board is sending a team of investigators, agency spokesman Eric Weiss said. “We still don’t know what caused the accident,“ CHP Officer Chris Miceli said.


►   SCOTUS: We’ll Review Key Obama Immigration Case

The Supreme Court has agreed to an election-year review of President Barack Obama’s executive orders to allow up to 5 million immigrants to “come out of the shadows” and work legally in the United States. Justices said Tuesday they will consider undoing lower court rulings that blocked the plan from taking effect in the midst of a presidential campaign already roiled by the issue. The case, which Reuters frames as “one of the most important the Supreme Court will decide this term,“ will probably be argued in April and decided by late June, about a month before both parties’ presidential nominating conventions.

The immigrants who would benefit from the administration’s plan are mainly the parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. Texas is leading 26 states in challenging the immigration plan, which is just one of the issues Republicans have accused Obama of usurping via executive orders when an initiative has been stuck in Congress, Reuters notes; Republicans have also been riled by his actions on gun control and ObamaCare. If the court sides with the current administration, Obama would have until he leaves office in January 2017 to implement the immigration plan. The next president would then decide whether to keep it in place, per Reuters.


►   Poll: 10% of Grads Think Judge Judy Is on SCOTUS

A ridiculous proportion of American college graduates believe that daytime TV’s Judge Judy is actually Justice Judy of the US Supreme Court, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The nonprofit group, which pushes for high standards in education, says a poll of 1,000 grads found that 10% identified Judith Sheindlin as a Supreme Court justice, only 28.4% could identify James Madison as the father of the Constitution, 40% didn’t know Congress could declare war, and a shameful 60% were clueless about how a constitutional amendment is ratified, CNN reports.

ACTA says the problem is that colleges and universities are doing almost nothing to ensure that graduates leave knowing anything about civics. The group says it surveyed 1,100 liberal arts colleges and universities and found that just 18% required even a single course in American history or government, and too many institutions “confuse community service and student activism with civic education.“ According to ACTA, the problem has been getting worse over the years, CBS New York reports. The group says its survey found that almost all grads over 65 know that the president can’t establish taxes, but only 73.8% of graduates ages 25 to 34 got that question right. (Earlier research found that a third of US citizens would flunk the civics section of the naturalization test.)


►   Track Palin Arrested on Domestic Violence Charge

While Sarah Palin was endorsing Donald Trump in Iowa, her oldest child was facing domestic violence charges in Alaska. According to court documents obtained by Gawker, Track Palin, 26, was arrested at his parents’ home on Monday night after an ugly incident in which he allegedly punched and kicked his girlfriend before threatening to shoot himself. In an affidavit, a police officer says he went to a Wasilla residence after separate 911 calls were received from the woman and from Palin, who told dispatchers the woman was drunk. The officer says that when he saw Palin outside, “his eyes were bloodshot and I detected a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and person. Upon contacting Palin, he was uncooperative, belligerent, and evasive with my initial line of questions.“

The officer says he handcuffed Palin, and other officers found the woman hiding under a bed in the residence. According to the affidavit, she said that after an altercation in which Palin hit her in the face and threw her phone, she went inside and “found Palin holding a gun with the barrel pointed near his face and saying, ‘Do you think I won’t do it?‘“ KTUU reports that Palin was released on bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to fourth-degree assault, interfering with a domestic violence report, and misconduct involving a weapon. A Palin family attorney tells the AP that the family wants privacy while Track, who spent a year in Iraq while serving in the Army, “receives the help that he and many of our returning veterans need.“ (In 2014, Track and other Palins were involved in a huge brawl.)


►   Navy SEAL Kept Secret Pic of bin Laden Corpse: Report

A former Navy SEAL who took part in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden kept a secret photo of the terrorist’s corpse, sources say. Matt Bissonnette—who landed in hot water over his bestseller about the 2011 raid—turned over a hard drive containing the photo to US authorities on the condition that he not be prosecuted for unlawfully possessing classified material, two sources tell the Intercept. Bissonnette’s lawyer notes a criminal investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was “closed through declination by the DOJ in August 2015.“ However, a new one sprouted when emails on the hard drive raised suspicions that Bissonnette may have profited from links to military suppliers while a SEAL.

About five years ago, Bissonnette—who worked as a liaison to equipment and tech suppliers—founded Element Group, which did business with a Defense Department contractor that sold equipment to SEAL Team Six, called Atlantic Diving Supply. Sources say ADS made “payments of at least several hundred thousand dollars” to Element Group, per the Intercept. When Bissonnette left the Navy, “we found out he had other companies and side deals going on,“ a former SEAL Team Six operator says. “That’s when Element Group shut down.“ A former SEAL says Bissonnette enlisted four colleagues to join Element Group as consultants, including a SEAL involved in the bin Laden raid who will soon be forced to retire. The full piece is here.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Hangover-Free Booze Is Now Supposedly a Thing

While some North Koreans have kept busy exchanging propaganda packages with South Korea and supposedly making H-bombs, other good citizens have reportedly invented the thing the world really needs: a ginseng-derived booze that doesn’t cause hangovers. Citing an article in the Pyongyang Times, CNBC notes that the brewing process uses burned, boiled rice to concoct the 30- to 40-proof product, now being referenced as a “national scientific and technological hit,“ per CNN. “Koryo Liquor, which is made of six-year-old Kaesong Koryo insam [ginseng], known as being highest in medicinal effect, and the scorched rice, is highly appreciated by experts and lovers as it is suave and causes no hangover,“ the Times article on the new product reads, via the Guardian. The tincture is also said to “[exude] national flavor,“ the BBC reports.

The article—which claims the curious title of “Liquor Wins Quality Medal for Preserving National Smack,“ per NK News—also says that the brewing process cuts down on the ginseng drink’s bitterness. CNBC notes that the “potentially miraculous” elixir was developed at the Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory. Of course, imbibers may have to take this news with a grain of tequila salt: As the Guardian notes, the same state media claimed last summer that North Korea had invented a ginseng-based injection that could cure SARS, MERS, Ebola, and AIDS.


►   ISIS Says Jihadi John Faked Being Dumb to Trick MI5

The Islamic State has finally confirmed the death of the man known as Jihadi John, something tentatively announced by US officials following an airstrike back in November, CNN reports. The confirmation comes via an obituary published by ISIS’ Dabiq magazine. The obituary provides details about Jihadi John—real name Mohammed Emwazi—as well as a photo of him without his trademark balaclava. Among the claims the article makes about Emwazi is that he “pretended to be unintelligent to trick MI5 officers,“ according to the Telegraph. The article states he pretended to be dumb when stopped by authorities while attempting to travel from Britain to Kuwait. Later it claims he was able to travel to Syria to join ISIS “right under the nose of the much-overrated MI5 British intelligence agency.“

Emwazi first came to international attention in August 2014 in an ISIS execution video, the BBC reports. He would go on to appear in multiple execution videos and was given the nickname Jihadi John. Emwazi moved to Britain at age 6, became a citizen, and would go on to get a degree in computer programming. According to the Telegraph, the Dabiq article appears to praise him for his part in the beheading videos. “His harshness towards the kafir (non-believers) was manifested through deeds that enraged all the nations, religions, and factions of kafir, the entire world bearing witness to this,“ the article states. It also praises him for his “mercy, kindness, and generosity towards the believers,“ exemplified by the time he gave a concubine to another man as a gift.


►   UK May Deport Muslim Migrants Who Don’t Learn English

If migrants—for example, Muslim women on spousal visas—haven’t learned at least some English within two-and-a-half years of moving to the UK, they could face deportation, the Guardian reports. It’s part of a plan backed by prime minister David Cameron, who says the segregation and isolation of Britain’s Muslim communities invites things like forced marriage, genital mutilation, and radicalization, according to the BBC. “If you’re not able to speak English, you’re not able to integrate,“ he says. “You may find, therefore, that you have challenges understanding what your identity is and you could be more susceptible to the extremist message that comes from [ISIS].“ Cameron says there are 38,000 Muslim women in the UK who can’t speak English and another 190,000 with limited English, according to the Guardian.

In addition to language tests, the government is also considering banning face veils in certain places, such as schools and courts, and banning gender segregation in Muslim meetings, the Telegraph reports. “People coming to our country have responsibilities too,“ the Guardian quotes Cameron. According to the BBC, critics of the plan say there are bigger issues affecting Muslim women, that connecting language skills and radicalization isn’t helpful, and that it’s wrong to focus on Muslims instead of all migrants. Cameron says he’ll be putting more than $28 million toward a program to teach Muslim women English, and that starting in October, people entering the UK on five-year spousal visas will be tested on their English skills after two and a half years. If they’re not improving, they may not be allowed to stay.


►   Hard Times Hit ISIS: Fighters’ Wages Cut in Half

Islamic State militants have seen their monthly salaries cut in half down to $400 for foreign fighters and $200 for those in Syria, according to leaked documents out of Raqqa. The internal government documents were released in November or December, reports Time. “Because of the exceptional circumstances that the Islamic State is passing through, a decision was taken to cut the salaries of the mujahedeen in half,“ they read, per the Guardian. “No one will be exempt from this decision no matter his position, but the distribution of food assistance will continue twice a month as usual.“

The group doesn’t explain the “exceptional circumstances,“ but experts cite bombing campaigns targeting the group’s oil business. Low oil prices may also be a factor. According to the State Department, ISIS now brings in just a fraction of the $40 million a month it made from oil early last year, reports CNN. The slashed wages are still above or level with the minimum wage for public sector employees in Syria, who were paid between $176 and $266 a month in 2011. Experts believe the healthy wages were key for the caliphate’s recruiting purposes. ISIS fighters also received a $50 stipend for wives and $25 for each child.


►   At Least 19 Killed in Attack on Pakistan University

Gunmen stormed a university in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people and triggering a heavy gunbattle with police and army troops who rushed to the scene in a town near the city of Peshawar, officials say. The attack began shortly after Bacha Khan University opened for classes in the town of Charsadda, some 21 miles outside Peshawar, says Deputy Commissioner Tahir Zafar. Pakistani TV stations broadcast footage showing a heavy military presence at the university, troops rushing in, and people fleeing.

The Pakistani army says the attackers have been contained in two university blocks and that four of them have been killed. Bacha Khan University is named after the founder of a liberal, anti-Taliban political party. The Pakistani Taliban have in the past targeted the party for its anti-militant policies. CNN reports that the Taliban have now claimed responsibility for the university attack, saying it was revenge for another military operation.

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