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Federal Study: Foster Kids Struggle to Get Health Screenings

The Gilmer Free Press

Some foster children are not getting their required medical screenings even though the visits are paid for by Medicaid, federal health investigators warn in a study released Monday.

The Health and Human Services’ inspector general study looked at a random sample of roughly 400 foster children from California, Texas, New York and Illinois and found nearly 30% did not receive one or more of their required health screenings between 2011 and 2012. Of those who did not receive at least one required screening, 12% did not receive their initial screening and 17% did not receive one or more periodic screenings.

Experts say foster children tend to experience a high rate of chronic medical, developmental, and mental health issues. They often face challenges getting access to health care. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that to identify and treat foster children’s health problems, it’s critical for states to ensure they get access to these services.

States have struggled with this issue for years. Investigators have been issuing reports about foster children’s access to health care since 2003. A 2010 study of foster kids in nine states found that three of four foster children did not receive all required medical, vision, and hearing screenings even though they were enrolled in Medicaid. At least 60 percent of the children who received a medical screening were missing one component of it, according to the study.

Each state is responsible for ensuring that foster children receive health screenings on time, but the federal Administration for Children and Families under HHS funds the state programs and has ultimate oversight.

The report recommends that the agency work with states to identify barriers that prevent foster children from accessing health care and strategize ways to work with foster parents on this issue, including incentivizing families to increase participation in regular health screenings.

West Virginia News     150304

The Gilmer Free Press

GOVERNOR TOMBLIN VETOES ABORTION-BAN BILL

Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has again vetoed a bill banning abortion 20 weeks after conception, citing constitutionality concerns.

Lawmakers only need a simple majority to overturn policy vetoes, however.

Tomblin nixed the bill Tuesday, saying he urged lawmakers to find a compromise. Instead, he said the bill is substantially similar to what he vetoed last year.

Tomblin, a Democrat, again stressed his anti-abortion stances.

The Republican Legislature passed it overwhelmingly this year, and it passed easily last year under Democrats.

The bill provides some exemptions for women in medical emergencies, but not for rape and incest.

Proponents have cited moral grounds. Opponents say it’s unconstitutional and intrusive into doctor-patient relationships.

Both bills resemble a law struck down in Arizona in 2013 that the U.S. Supreme Court later decided not to reconsider.


NUMBER OF INCARCERATED IN WV STILL GROWING

West Virginia’s prison population continues to grow, despite state efforts to turn the tide.

The Journal reports that the number of inmates under the jurisdiction of the state has increased by more than 500 since July 2013. It now stands at 5,865.

Regional jails are also housing more people.

The Justice Reinvestment Act of 2013 provided for nearly $2.5 million in funding to reduce the number of repeat offenders. This was to be achieved through workforce training programs and creating more community-based substance abuse treatment services throughout the state.

Part of the problem is West Virginia’s high incarceration rate. The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 715 people for every 100,000 residents. In West Virginia, the rate is 895 per every 100,000 residents.


WV WOMAN ADMITS STEALING $450,000 FROM EMPLOYER

A 58-year-old Hurricane woman is scheduled to be sentenced in June for stealing nearly $450,000 from her employer.

Sandra Ball pleaded guilty in federal court in Huntington on Monday to two counts of wire fraud.

The government says Ball was employed as an auditor for a small business in Hurricane. Over a period of five years, ending in 2013, she transferred money from her employer’s checking account to her personal credit card. She used the money to pay for personal items.

Ball could be sentenced to 40 years in prison and be fined up to $500,000.


CHARTER SCHOOLS BILL ADVANCES

After weeks of debate and Democratic outcry, the Republican-led Senate cleared a reform Monday to allow charter schools in West Virginia.

In an 18-16 party-line vote, senators passed a bill that would strike West Virginia from the list of eight states that don’t allow charter schools.

The state House of Delegates, also with a Republican majority, will consider the bill before the legislative session ends March 14.

The bill would allow two new charter schools in the state for the first five years. Local school boards would have the final say over whether to open them in their counties. State education officials would start seeking proposals at the end of June 2016.

Republican advocates said West Virginia needs to change its approach, given the state’s abysmal educational, economic and quality-of-life rankings.

“The time for debating and arguing is over,“ said Senator Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia. “We all know that we need something here in West Virginia different than what we’ve been doing.“

Democrats said the reform would permit inequality across student populations, while siphoning money from the public school system.

“It is our responsibility to be architects for systemic change that will benefit all children, rather than the chosen few,“ said Senator William Laird, D-Fayette.

Senator Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, challenged Democrats to propose a better plan, saying that spending more money wasn’t the answer. He said the lottery system for picking students would be fair and randomized.

Charter schools generally have more flexibility in using public money and have more accountability requirements.

Senator Robert Plymale, a Wayne County Democrat who opposed the bill, said there needs to be a stronger push for Innovation Zones, where public noncharter schools can get waivers from state education policies and additional money, in certain cases. It passed the Legislature last year.

Unions and many teachers have fought against the charter-school push, while business groups have been advocates of the change.

Monday’s vote closes weeks of long committee meetings and testy back-and-forth exchanges on the Senate floor.

Democrats thought they had killed the bill in a late February committee vote. Afterward, Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, pronounced himself “Proud of what I did.“

The next day, Republicans resurrected the bill on the floor, and Democrats accused them of breaking the rules to do it.

It became the most-heated conflict between the parties since Republicans earlier this year took control of the Legislature for the first time in more than eight decades.

Meanwhile, it appears that the controversial Common Core educational standards will remain in place in West Virginia’s public schools.

The state Senate’s top vote counter says there isn’t sufficient support to repeal Common Core.

On Sunday, Republican Majority Whip Daniel Hall told The Charleston Daily Mail he doesn’t believe the repeal would garner enough votes. He also said he doesn’t favor the repeal.

The Republican-led House of Delegates passed it 75-19 Saturday.

The legislative session ends March 14. Bills that could be vetoed by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin must pass even sooner.

Republicans can override policy vetoes with a simple majority - more “yes” than “no” votes.

It takes several days from passage to ship Tomblin a bill. Then he has five days to sign it during session.

Tomblin’s Department of Education says the Common Core repeal would cost $128 million, a number some Republicans dispute.


A ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ VOTE FOR WEST LIBERTY U PRESIDENT

The West Liberty University faculty senate has voted no confidence in President Robin Capehart, who is facing an ethics complaint.

The vote Monday was 13-6, according to media reports.

The vote follows a complaint in January by the West Virginia Ethics Commission alleging Capehart used university resources to promote his film company’s movie “Doughboy.“

The complaint states that Capehart used a state credit card to promote the film and a university television station to advertise the movie, among other claims.

Capehart has denied the allegations.

The university’s board of governors is expected to discuss the matter at its March 11 meeting.

The Ethics Commission has scheduled a public hearing for April 16 in Charleston.


HARRISON BOE, PERSONNEL DISCUSS PENDING EDUCATION LEGISLATION

In a special session Monday night, the Harrison County Board of education met with teachers and service personnel concerned with pending legislation making its way through the State Capitol.

“They have some real concerns about what’s going on in Charleston and I said ‘I share your concerns,‘“ Superintendent Mark Manchin said. “If our teachers have concerns, if our service personnel have concerns, then we have concerns because they’re ultimately the one who deliver the education here in Harrison County.“

Teachers—both union and non-union—told board members after catching up to the work going on with potential education reform, they had to speak up before it is too late.

“I think that people are upset that people so far removed from the classroom, legislators, though they’re elected, are making decisions that are somewhat in the dark and disadvantage children,“ Greg Phillips, a teacher at Robert C. Byrd High School and president of the Harrison County Education Association said.

One of the main pieces of legislation the group takes umbrage with is S.B. 14, The Charter Schools Act, which passed the Senate Monday night and would allow county school boards to establish public charter schools.

Those in attendance said that West Virginia is simply not the place for charter schools and will create a system of “winners and losers” as the rules of who could attend such schools could potentially be determined by a lottery selection.

“They don’t solve the problems,“ Phillips said. “Certainly, in a rural setting, all it does is serve to take the resources away from the local board and we feel that would be detrimental to our children. We’re taking resources out of our own classrooms that we use everyday by doing that.“

Phillips pointed to studies that show results on charter school performance varies by location [The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University 2009, 2013] and the teacher turnover rate was higher in charter schools, affect overall performance [Vanderbilt University, 2009].

Another bill those in attendance had concerns with was H.B. 2005, allowing individuals with alternative certification to teach in classrooms throughout the state.

Many felt it an insult that what they went to school for years in order to do could be learned by individuals seeking alternative certification in a five-week course. They also feared this would encourage younger, aspiring teacher to not go through college to become an educator in leiu of saving their money and receiving their certification.

Superintendent Manchin does not anticipate the county would use any individuals with alternative certifications in classrooms in the foreseeable future due to the fact they do not have an issue with a lack of certified personnel.

“The board showed their solidarity with our teachers to assure that we will not allow any non-certified teachers in our classrooms,“ he said. “We only want to have the best that we can possibly find to teach our children. We’re very pleased with the quality of our teachers in Harrison County and with the quality of our service personnel.“

Overall, both sides felt they were able to communicate their concerns with one another and better understand where each group stands on the issues. Phillips believes they have the backing of the board.

“They showed support and understand that in order to have professionals in some of these vacant positions, you need to pay professionals, professional salaries,“ he said. “You need to untie the hands of teachers to do their jobs and I heard that coming from board members. I think they were receptive.“

A rally for education personnel and teacher unions across the state is being planned for this Saturday at the State Capitol Complex. Phillips said he anticipates up to 8,000 people to participate.


COMPANY PROPOSES BUILDING 2 GAS-FIRED POWER PLANTS IN WV

A company plans to spend about $1 billion to build two natural gas-fired power plants in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

The Brooke County Commission approved a memorandum of understanding for the project on Tuesday.

Energy Solutions Consortium LLC plans to build a 750-megawatt plant and a 550-megawatt plant on the former Wheeling Corrugating property in Beech Bottom. The property will be purchased from the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.

Business Development Corporation executive director Pat Ford says the company and the county are working on a payment in lieu of taxes agreement. Energy Solutions would pay the county more than $25 million per plant over 30 years.

The project is expected to create 60 permanent jobs and 800 construction jobs.


WV SUPREME COURT TO HEAR 5 CASES AT WVU COLLEGE OF LAW

West Virginia’s Supreme Court justices will make an annual trip to West Virginia University to hear cases at the College of Law.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments in five cases on Wednesday in the law school’s Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom. The cases include the Jefferson County prosecutor’s challenge of a circuit court order dismissing all but one of 54 counts against a woman accused of fraudulently using a state purchasing card.

Each spring, the justices travel to Morgantown to hear an argument docket at the law school. Bad weather prompted the cancellation of last year’s event.


WYOMING COUNTY SCHOOL CANCELS CLASSES FOLLOWING GYM FIRE

Classes at a Wyoming County school have been canceled following a fire.

Wyoming County Schools Superintendent Frank Blackwell says the fire was contained to the gym at Baileysville Elementary and Middle School.

He says the fire occurred early Monday morning.

The fire caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. Blackwell says school officials are lucky that the fire didn’t cause a major loss.

School officials hope to resume classes on Tuesday.


LEWIS COUNTY BEGINS PLANNING 200TH ANNIVERSARY

Weston recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, but Lewis County is getting ready for a celebration of its own.

The Lewis County Commission has begun planning for the County’s 200th anniversary.

The big day is in December of 2016, but commissioners are planning now to allow everyone a chance to celebrate.

U.S.A. News   150304

The Gilmer Free Press

PAYPAL TO ACQUIRE MOBILE WALLET PROVIDER PAYDIENT

EBay’s PayPal payment unit is acquiring mobile wallet operator Paydient ahead of PayPal’s spinoff as the mobile payment sector heats up.

Paydient provides a mobile wallet platform for retailers and companies including Subway, Harris Teeter, Capital One and others. They also provide the mobile wallet platform for MCX, a mobile pay consortium whose members include many of the world’s largest retailers, including Walmart, Target, Sears, CVS and many others.

Competition in the mobile wallet sector is heating up with the launch of Apple Pay, Samsung offering Samsung Pay beginning this summer and Google teaming up with Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile to have its Google Wallet payment service built into Android phones sold by those carriers.

PayPal says the company says that the acquisition will let it offer its merchants another way for their customers to pay for goods. Merchants can use the mobile system both online and in stores in a variety of different payment types, such as store-branded credit cards and gift cards. Merchants can also use any payment technology in brick-and-mortar locations like QR codes or near-field communication to take payment.

“We’re giving very easy access for consumers to pay any way they want to pay and letting merchants get paid any way want to get paid,” said Bill Ready, CEO of PayPal’s Braintree unit, a specialist in mobile payments that PayPal bought in 2013.

EBay has been planning to spin off its PayPal payments business in the second half of the year.

Bryan Yeager, analyst at research firm eMarketer, said gives PayPal a stronger foothold for in-store retail mobile payments.

“It’s likely PayPal will use this acquisition to get its own payment options in front of more consumers using mobile payments in-store,” he said.

Financial terms of the Paydient deal weren’t disclosed. The deal is expected to close in late March or April.


BILL GATES REPEATS AT TOP OF FORBES’ LIST OF BILLIONAIRES

The world’s richest person got even richer this year. And a basketball superstar-turned-owner made the list for the first time.

Forbes said Monday that Bill Gates’s net worth rose to $79.2 billion in 2015 from $76 billion last year. That put him at the top of the magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires for the second consecutive year. The co-founder of Microsoft Corp. has topped the list for 16 of the last 21 years.

In second place is Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim Helu, with a net worth of $77.1 billion. He had topped the list in 2013.

Next is investor Warren Buffett, who moved up one slot this year with a net worth of $72.7 billion. In fourth place was Amancio Ortega, the Spanish co-founder of clothing retail chain Zara, with a net worth of $64.5 billion. Rounding out the top five was Larry Ellison, founder of technology company Oracle Corp., with $54.3 billion.

Forbes said there were 1,826 billionaires on its list this year, up from 1,645 in 2014. Added together, they were worth a combined $7.05 trillion, up from $6.4 trillion last year.

Most of those on the list were men. But there were 197 women, up from 172 a year ago. The highest-ranking woman was Christy Walton, the widow of John Walton, a son of the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. She has a net worth of $41.7 billion, according to Forbes.

The world’s youngest billionaire was 24-year-old Evan Spiegel, the CEO and co-founder of mobile messaging company Snapchat, with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Snapchat’s other co-founder, 25-year-old Bobby Murphy, had the same net worth as Spiegel. Other tech billionaire newcomers were two co-founders of taxi-ordering app Uber and one of its executives. Three co-founders of Airbnb, the vacation-home rental website, also made the list.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan joined the list for the first time this year, thanks to his ownership in basketball team Charlotte Hornets and payouts form his Nike brand. Jordan had a net worth of $1 billion, the magazine said.

This is the 29th year that Forbes has released its billionaires list. The magazine said it calculated each person’s wealth based on stock prices and exchange rates on February 13, 2015.


JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REVIEW FINDS PATTERN OF RACIAL BIAS AMONG FERGUSON POLICE

The Justice Department will issue findings this week that accuse the police department in Ferguson, MO, of racial bias and routinely violating the constitutional rights of citizens, including by stopping drivers without reasonable suspicion, making arrests without probable cause and using excessive force, officials said.

In hundreds of interviews and in a broad review of more than 35,000 pages of Ferguson police records and other documents, Justice officials found that although African Americans make up 67% of the population in Ferguson, they accounted for 93% of all arrests between 2012 and 2014.

The findings come as Justice Department officials attempt to negotiate a settlement with the police department to change its practices. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the department could bring a lawsuit, as it has done against law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions in recent years. A U.S. official said that Ferguson officials have been cooperating.

As part of its findings, the Justice Department concluded that African Americans accounted for 85% of all people stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90% of all citations issued.

The Justice Department plans to release evidence this week of racial bias found in e-mails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials. A November 2008 e-mail, for instance, stated that President Obama could not be president for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

The Justice Department did not identify who wrote this and other racist e-mails and whom they were sent to. Officials at the department spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the review and its findings before a planned release this week.

The review concludes that racial bias and a focus on generating revenue over public safety have a profound effect on Ferguson police and court practices and routinely violate the Constitution and federal law.

The Justice review also found a pattern or practice of Ferguson police using unreasonable force against citizens. In 88% of the cases in which the department used force, it was against African Americans. In all of the 14 canine-bite incidents for which racial information was available, the person bitten was African American.

In Ferguson court cases, African Americans are 68% less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal judge, according to the Justice review. In 2013, African Americans accounted for 92% of cases in which an arrest warrant was issued.

From October 2012 to October 2014, 96% of people arrested during traffic stops solely because of an outstanding warrant were African American, the review found.

Justice investigators also reviewed types of arrests and the treatment of detainees in the city jail by Ferguson police officers.They found that from April to September 2014, 95% of people held longer than two days were black. The Police Department also “overwhelmingly” charges African Americans with certain “petty offenses,” the investigation concluded.

For example, from 2011 to 2013, African Americans accounted for 95% of all “Manner of Walking in Roadway” charges, 94% of all “Failure to Comply” charges and 92% of all “Peace Disturbance” charges, the review found.

The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation last fall into the actions of Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. Officials told The Washington Post last fall that they had all but concluded that they did not have a strong enough case to bring charges.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had promised that before he stepped down, he would release findings from a broader review that began on September 04 of whether Ferguson police routinely engaged in racial profiling or a pattern of using excessive force.

Holder, who is expected to leave office within the next two weeks, could release the findings as soon as Wednesday, officials said.

Justice investigators spent about 100 days in Ferguson, observing police and court practices, including four sessions of the Ferguson Municipal Court. They conducted an analysis of police data on stops, searches and arrests, as well as data collected by the court, and met with neighborhood associations and advocacy groups. The investigators also interviewed city, police and court officials, including the Ferguson police chief and his command staff.

In the past five years, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has opened more than 20 investigations of police departments, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five.

The department has entered into 15 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with nine of them, including the New Orleans and Albuquerque police departments.

Justice officials have seven open investigations, including a civil rights inquiry into the Cleveland Police Department. In December, the department issued a report accusing the Cleveland police of engaging in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force — including shooting residents, striking them in the head and spraying them with chemicals.

The department and Cleveland agreed to establish an independent monitor to oversee changes, including better training and supervision of officers.

World News   150304

The Gilmer Free Press

WHY MIDWESTERN FARMERS WANT TO BREAK THE CUBA EMBARGO

Cuba policy sometimes makes strange bedfellows, which is how a man like Thomas Marten, a burly Illinois soybean farmer with a bushy red beard, had come to Havana to make a statement about the principles of free enterprise. “As a Republican, I believe in trade for the betterment of all people,“ he said, as he rushed to another business meeting with communist officials. “Prohibiting it is something that hurts us all.“

Printed on Marten’s business card was a large, undulating American flag, and his title: Zanesville Township GOP Committeeman.

Marten is the kind of American whose views about Cuba may ultimately lead to the undoing of the so-called Cuba embargo, 54 years after the United States first imposed trade sanctions on the Castro government and two months after President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Havana.

[Cuba says terror list, banking issues are blocking better ties with the U.S.]

Over the years, no country in the world has triggered more U.S. government penalties and fines on private businesses than Cuba, and Marten had come to Havana with nearly 100 other American farmers, farm lobbyists and former U.S. agriculture officials looking to throw a little weight behind a new push against those sanctions.

Calling itself the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the group isn’t shy about its interest in selling more American food to the communist government, but its members also appear sincerely interested in helping the island’s small farmers after decades of technological isolation and the disastrous legacy of state-run agriculture.

The group met with Cuban government officials Monday, then planned to visit local farmers and “get our boots directly in the mud,“ said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, the coalition’s leader, a Cargill executive.

The Cuba effort isn’t a new one for the farm lobby. But after Obama’s announcement, it had produced a new enthusiasm, said the group, telling foreign reporters and television cameras from Cuban state media that supporters of the embargo in Congress were “a minority.“

Lawmakers have offered new proposals to lift U.S. trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, but it’s unclear whether Republican leaders will allow the measures to come up for a vote.

“Obama has set the tone for the termination of the embargo,“ said Mike Espy, former agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton. Joining him was John Block, who held the job under President Ronald Reagan.

“This is a two-way street,“ Block said. “We want to help Cuban agriculture and we want to sell corn and soybeans to Cuba.“

American food sales to the island peaked at more than $700 million in 2008, according to trade figures. That made the United States one of Cuba’s largest trading partners at the time, despite the sanctions.

But because the U.S. sanctions limit the sales to a cash-only basis and bar U.S. banks from financing the sales, Havana has increasingly looked elsewhere to cover its import needs. Last year the Castro government spent less than $300 million on U.S. food, mostly frozen chicken and soybeans.

Cuba has stopped buying U.S. wheat entirely, and rice shipments have plunged as well, the farm group said.

Instead Cuba has turned to Brazil, Argentina and other nations whose banks can finance the food sales.

Despite the country’s ample land and favorable climate, Cuba imports some 60 to 70% of its food, costing the cash-strapped government some $2 billion a year. Much of what the island’s 11 million residents consume through the government’s ration card system consists of imported chicken, oil and rice.

“People think of Cuba as a tiny market, but as recently as 2010, it was the fifth largest market in the world for U.S. food exports,“ said Mark Albertson of the Illinois Soybean Association.

The new Cuba regulations put in place by the Obama administration do not allow the island’s farmers to export to the United States. Albertson said one way to make American food sales to Cuba more competitive would be to have “two-way” commerce, in which international shippers wouldn’t charge extra for returning empty.

The inability to offer financing will continue to hurt American producers, Albertson said. “Nowhere else in the world are we forced to do business without being able to offer credit, so that will be the main problem,“ he said.

With its benevolent winter climate, economists say Cuba could one day export tomatoes and other vegetables all across the eastern United States during the cold-weather months, along with traditional crops like sugar, coffee and tobacco.

Agriculture is one of the few sectors of the Cuban economy that has seen significant liberalization under Raul Castro. But the government still doesn’t allow farmers to freely import tractors, trucks and other modern equipment, and Cuban growers say they won’t be able to significantly boost output until the state gets out of the way.


CHINA’S BIGGEST VIRAL VIDEO RIGHT NOW IS THIS TWO-HOUR-LONG DOCUMENTARY ON POLLUTION

The most popular viral phenomenon on Chinese Internet right now has nothing to do with the color of a dress or a baby weasel riding a woodpecker. It’s a 104-minute-long documentary about the environment.

Produced and narrated by Chai Jing, a former investigative reporter for Chinese state television, the film “Under the Dome” is in the style of a TED talk or an activist Al Gore documentary, looking at the grim state of air pollution in China and what can be done to remedy it.

The film takes aim at the lax practices and individual poor habits that lead to smog blanketing China’s cities. After being uploaded on the weekend, it has generated hundreds of millions of views and social media posts by Chinese netizens.


Chai says she was motivated to embark on the project when she was pregnant and discovered that her unborn child suffered from an ailment likely related to China’s noxious air. “I’d never felt afraid of pollution before, and never wore a mask no matter where,“ Chai, 39, says in the video, according to the Guardian. “But when you carry a life in you, what she breathes, eats and drinks are all your responsibility, then you feel the fear.“

The film generated a huge, emotional response online, including angry comments directed at China’s political authorities.

“Support Chai Jing or those like her who stand up like this to speak the truth,” said one commenter on Youku, a Chinese equivalent to YouTube, who was quoted by the New York Times. “In this messed-up country that’s devoid of law, cold-hearted, numb and arrogant, they’re like an eye-grabbing sign that shocks the soul.“

Importantly, China’s censors have done little to stifle the conversation surrounding the film, and in some sense it has received the government’s imprimatur. Chen Jining, the country’s new environment minister, praised Chai and the film on Sunday, saying it reflected “growing public concern over environmental protection and threats to human health.“

In authoritarian China, issues of environmental policy and reform provide one of the few spaces for an independent civil society to make its concerns known.

It also helps that “Under the Dome” includes a call to action on the part of all Chinese.

“This is how history is made,“ Chai says toward the end of the film, after she convinces a street vendor to use more environment-friendly equipment. “With thousands of ordinary people one day saying, ‘No, I’m not satisfied, I don’t want to wait. I want to stand up and do a little something.‘“

2015 Gilmer County Pony League Final Sign-Up Announcement - This Friday

The Gilmer Free Press
2015 Gilmer County Pony League
Final Sign-Up Announcement!!!

Friday, March 06, 2015 at Glenville Elementary Cafeteria
6:00PM to 8:00 PM

Player registration forms, medical release forms, and a volunteer forms for any parent interested in volunteering during the season, will be handed out at sign ups at the dates mentioned above.

Sign-Up Requirements For Players & Volunteers:

• Birth Certificate

• 2 forms of Identification (Photo ID, Social Security card, etc.)

• 2 Proofs of residency


Note: Enclosed in this sign up announcement packet you will find a detailed difference of the previous year’s league compared to the Pony League start up.

Important Note: There was a typo on the signup papers sent home with the kids.  To be eligible to play Gilmer county pony league softball in the 9 year old to 12 year old division your league must be no more than 12 years old by December 31, 2014 if your league age has reached 13 years old on or before December 31, 2014 you will have to play in the 13 year old to 15 year old division.

The Gilmer Free Press

Gilmer County Cancer Unit Making Easter Eggs - 03.07.15

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer County Cancer Unit will be making the peanut butter Easter Eggs Saturday, March 07, 2015 at the Lions Club building at the Recreation Center.

On Monday, March 16, 2015 we will dip, decorate and package the eggs and they will then be delivered to the schools and businesses that will sell them.

The cost of the eggs will remain the same as before, $4.00.

Anyone interested in helping may come to the Lions Club building at the Recreation Center or you may contact Rosa Belle Cunningham at 304.462.7534 or Linda Bailey at 304.462 .715, for more information.

Volunteer’s are welcome.

Work begins about 7:30 AM.

A donation will be made to the American Cancer Society from the profit made from the sell of the eggs.

10 Things America Must Do to Stop Ruining the World

The Gilmer Free Press

My letter to an unknown American patriot.

Dear American Patriot,

I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself.  Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist.  It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country.  In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.

In any case, here’s how my particular form of nationalism manifests itself. I feel a responsibility for the acts of this country that I don’t feel for those of other states or groups.  When, for instance, a wedding party blows up thanks to a Taliban roadside bomb, or the Islamic State cuts some poor captive’s head off, or Bashar al-Assad’s air force drops barrel bombs on civilians, or the Russians jail a political activist, or some other group or state commits some similar set of crimes, I’m not surprised.  Human barbarity, as well as the arbitrary cruelty of state power, are unending facts of history. They should be opposed, but am I shocked? No.

Still—and I accept the irrationality of this—when my country wipes out wedding parties in other lands or organizes torture regimes and offshore prison systems where anything goes, or tries to jail yet another whistleblower, when it acts cruelly, arbitrarily, or barbarically, I feel shock and wonder why more Americans don’t have the same reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t blame myself for the commission of such acts, but as an American, I do feel a special responsibility to do something about them, or at least to speak out against them—as it should be the responsibility of others in their localities to deal with their particular sets of barbarians.

So think of my last 12 years running TomDispatch.com as my own modest war on terror—American terror.  We don’t, of course, like to think of ourselves as barbaric, and terror is, almost by definition, a set of un-American acts that others are eager to commit against us.  “They” want to take us out in our malls and backyards.  We would never commit such acts, not knowingly, not with malice aforethought.  It matters little here that, from wedding partiesto funeralswomen to children, we have, in fact, continued to take “them” out in their backyards quite regularly.

Most Americans would admit that this country makes mistakes. Despite our best efforts, we do sometimes produce what we like to call “collateral damage” as we go after the evildoers, but a terror regime? Not us. Never.

And this is part of the reason I’m writing you. I keep wondering how, in these years, it’s been possible to hold onto such fictions so successfully. I wonder why, at least some of the time, you aren’t jumping out of your skin over what we do, rather than what they’ve done or might prospectively do to us.

Let’s start with an uncomfortable fact of our world that few here care to mention: in one way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of just about every extreme terror outfit across the Greater Middle East. If we weren’t their parents, in crucial cases we were at least their midwives or foster parents.

Start in the 1980s with the urge of President Ronald Reagan and his fundamentalist Catholic spymaster, CIA Director William Casey, to make allies of fundamentalist Islamic movements at a time when their extreme (and extremist) piety seemed attractively anticommunist.  In that decade, in Afghanistan in particular, Reagan and Casey put money, arms, and training where their hearts and mouths were and promoted the most extreme Islamists who were ready to give the Soviet Union a bloody nose, a Vietnam in reverse.

To accomplish this, Washington also allied itself with an extreme religious state, Saudi Arabia, as well as Pakistan’s less than savory intelligence service.  The result was major support for men—President Reagan hailed them as “freedom fighters” and said of a visiting group of them in 1985, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers”—some of whom are now fighting us in Afghanistan, and indirectly for what came to be known as al-Qaeda, an organization which emerged from the American-Saudi hothouse of the Afghan War.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

Similarly, American fingerprints are all over the new Islamic State (IS) or “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.  Its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, came into existence in the chaos and civil strife that followed the American invasion and occupation of that country, after Saddam Hussein’s military had been disbanded and hundreds of thousands of trained Sunni personnel tossed out onto the streets of Iraq’s cities.  Much of the leadership of the Islamic State met, grew close, and trained potential recruits at Camp Bucca, an American military prison in Iraq.  Without the acts of the Bush administration, IS would, in fact, have been inconceivable.  In the same fashion, the U.S. (and NATO) intervention in Libya in 2011, including a seven-monthbombing campaign, helped create the conditions for the growth of extreme militias in parts of that country, as the U.S. drone assassination campaign in Yemen has visibly strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In other words, each of the terror organizations we categorize as the unimaginably barbaric Other has a curiously intimate, if generally unexplored, relationship with us.  In addition, in these years, it’s been clear (at least to those living in the Greater Middle East) that such groups had no monopoly on barbarity.  Washington’s extreme acts were legion in the region, ranging from its CIA torture chambers (although we called them “black sites”) to Abu Ghraib, from global kidnappings to images of a U.S. helicopter gunning down civilians in the streets of Baghdad.  There were also a range of well-publicized vengeful acts of war, including videos of U.S. troops laughing while urinating on enemy corpses, trophy photos of body parts taken by American soldiers as souvenirs, photos of a 12-member “kill team” that hunted Afghans “for sport,” and a striking “lone wolf” nighttime terror rampage by an American staff sergeant in Afghanistan who killed 16 villagers, mainly women and children. And that’s just for starters.

Then there’s one matter that TomDispatch has been alone here in focusing on. By my count, American airpower has blown away parts or all of at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen), killing at least several hundred revelers over the years, without the slightest shock or upset in the U.S.

That’s one reason I’m writing you: the lack of reaction here. Can you imagine what would happen if the planes and drones from another country had wiped out eight weddings here in perhaps a dozen years?

On a larger scale, Washington’s invasions, occupations, interventions, bombings, and raids since 9/11 have resulted in a rising tide of civilian deaths and exiles in a fragmenting region.  All of this, including those drone assassination campaigns in the backlands of the planet, adds up to a panorama of barbarism and terror that we seldom acknowledge as such.  Of course, the terror outfits we love to hate also love to hate us and have often leapt to embrace the extremity of our acts, including adopting both the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo and the CIA’s waterboarding for their own symbolic purposes.

Perhaps above all, Americans don’t imagine drones, the sexiesthigh-tech weapons around, as purveyors of terror.  Yet our grimly named Predators and Reapers armed with “Hellfire” missiles, their pilots safe from harm thousands of miles away, buzz daily over the Pakistani tribal backlands and rural Yemenspreading terror below. That this is so should be indisputable, at least based on accounts from the ground.

In fact, Washington’s drone assassins might fit into a category we normally only apply to Them: “lone wolf” terrorists searching for targets to blow away.  In our case, it’s people who have what Washington identifies as behavioral “traits” associated with terror suspects. They are eliminated in “signature strikes.” So here’s my question to you: Why is it that Americans generally don’t grasp the impact of such a new form of warfare in the Islamic world, especially when, at the movies (as in the Terminator films), we usually root against the machines and for the humans scurrying underfoot?  The word American drone operators use to label their dead victims—“bugsplat”—reveals much.  The term goes back at least to the non-drone shock-and-awe air attacks that began the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and reflects a disturbing sense of God-like, all-seeing power over the “insects” below.

Of course, part of the reason so little of this sinks in here is that all such acts, no matter how extreme, have been folded into a single comforting framework.  You know the one I mean: the need for the national security state to keep Americans “safe” from terror. I think you’d agree that, by now, this is a sacrosanct principle of the post-9/11 era that’s helped expand the national security state to a size unimaginable even in the Cold War years when this country had another imperial enemy.

Safety and security are much abused terms in our American world.  The attacks of 9/11 created what might be thought of as a national version of PTSD from which we’ve never recovered, and yet the dangers of Islamic terrorism, while perfectly real, are relatively minor.  Leave aside the truly threatening things in American life and take instead an obscure example of what I mean.  Even the most modest research suggests that toddlers who find guns may kill or wound more Americans in a typical year than terrorists do.  And yet the media deals with death-by-toddler as an oddity story, not a national crisis, whether the result is the death of a mother in a Wal-Mart in Idaho or the wounding of a father and mother in anAlbuquerque motel.  Nor does the government regularly hype the dangers of “lone wolf” toddlers.  And despite such killings, the legality of “carrying” guns (for “safety”—of course!—from unspecified non-toddler bad guys) is barely questioned in this country as the practice spreads rapidly both in numbers and in the kinds of places to which such weapons can be brought.

And don’t even waste your time thinking about the more than 30,000 deaths by vehicle each year.  Americans coexist with such spectacular levels of carnage without significant complaint so that car culture can continue in the usual fashion.  Yet let some distant terror group issue an absurd threat by video—most recently, al-Shabab in Somalia warning of an attack on the Mall of America in Minnesota—and the media alarm bells go off; the government issues warnings; the head of the Department of Homeland Security (worrying about his budget tied up in Congress) takes to TV to warn shoppers to be “particularly careful”; and pundits debate just how serious this danger may be.  Forget that the only thing al-Shabab can hope for is that a disturbed doofus living somewhere in Minnesota might pick up one of the guns floating so freely around this society and head for that mall to do his damnedest.

And in the constant panic over our safety in situations where very little danger actually exists, our own barbarity, seen as a series of defensive acts to ensure our security, disappears in a sea of alarm. 

So how to respond? I doubt you agree with me this far, so my response probably carries little weight with you. Nonetheless, let me offer it, with a caveat of sorts. Despite what you might imagine, I’m neither a pacifist, nor do I believe in a perfect world.  And no, I wouldn’t disband the U.S. military.  It’s clear enough that a strong, defensive-minded military is a necessity on this planet.

After 13 years, though, it should be obvious that this country’s military-first policies throughout the Greater Middle East and widening areas of Africa have been a disastrous bust. I have no doubt that a far less barbaric, less extreme, less militaristic foreign policy would, in purely pragmatic terms, also be a more effective one on every imaginable score—unless, of course, your value system happens to center on the continued building up of the national security state and the reinforcement of its “security” or of the military-industrial complex andits “security.” In that case, the necessity for our barbarity as well as theirs becomes clearer in a flash.

Otherwise, despite much that we’ve heard in this new century, my suspicion is that what’s right and moral is also what’s practical and realistic.  In that light, let me offer, with commentary, my version of the Ten Commandments for a better American world (and a better world generally). Admittedly, in this day and age, it could easily be the Twenty or Thirty Commandments, but being classically minded, let me just stick with 10.

1. Thou shalt not torture: Torture of every horrific sort in these years seems to have beenremarkably ineffective in producing useful information for the state.  Even if it were provedeffective in breaking up al-Qaeda plots, however, it would still have been both a desperately illegal (if unpunished) act and a foreign policy disaster of the first order.

2. Thou shalt not send drones to assassinate anyone, American or not: The ongoing U.S. drone assassination campaigns, while killing individual terrorists, have driven significant numbers of people in the backlands of the planet into the arms of terror outfits and so only increased their size and appeal. Without a doubt, such drone strikes represent a global war of, not on, terror. In the process, they have turned the president into our assassin-in-chief and us into an assassin nation.

3. Thou shalt not invade another country: D’oh!

4. Thou shalt not occupy another country: By the way, how did that work out the last two times the U.S. tried it?

5. Thou shalt not upgrade thy nuclear arsenal: The U.S. has now committed itself to atrillion-dollar, decades-long upgrade of its vast arsenal.  If any significant portion of it were ever used, it would end human life as we know it on this planet and so should be considered a singular prospective crime against humanity. After years in which the only American nuclear focus was on a country—Iran—with no nuclear weapons, that this has happened without serious debate or discussion is in itself criminal.

6. Thou shalt not intercept the communications of thy citizens or others all over the world or pursue the elaboration of a global surveillance state based on criminal acts: There seems to be no place the NSA has been unwilling to break into in order to surveil the planet.  For unimaginable reams of information that have seemingly been of next to no actual use, the NSA and the national security state have essentially outlawed privacy and cracked open various amendments to the Constitution.  No information is worth such a price.

7. Thou shalt not be free of punishment for crimes of state: In these years of genuine criminality, official Washington has become a crime-free zone.  No matter the seriousness of the act, none—not one committed in the name of the state in the post-9/11 era, no matter how heinous—has been brought into a courtroom.

8. Thou shalt not use a massive system of secret classification to deprive Americans of all real knowledge of acts of state: In 2011, the U.S. classified 92 million documents and the shroud of secrecy over the business of the “people’s” government has only grown worse in the years since.  Increasingly, for our own “safety” we are only supposed to know what the government prefers us to know.  This represents, of course, a crime against democracy.

9. Thou shalt not act punitively toward those who want to let Americans in on what the national security state is doing in their name: The fierce and draconian campaign the Obama administration has launched against leakers and whistleblowers is unprecedented in our history.  It is a growing challenge to freedom of the press and to the citizen’s right to know.

10. Thou shalt not infringe on the rights of the citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Need I even explain?

If you want to boil these commandments down to a single injunction, it might simply be: Don’t do it! Or in a moment when nothing Washington does isn’t, it seems, done again: Stop and think before acting!

Of course, there’s no way to know what a national security policy based on these 10 commandments might really be like, not when Washington is so thoroughly invested in repeating its failed acts.  It’s now deep into Iraq War 3.0, intent on further slowing the “withdrawal” from Afghanistan, and pursuing the usual drone assassination strategies, as from South Asia to Iraq, Yemen, and Libya things only worsen and jihadist organizationsgrow stronger.

Yet campaign 2016 is already shaping up as a contest among candidates who represent more of the same, much more of the same, and even more than that of the same. One of them has tellingly brought back as his advisers much of the cast of characters who planned the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Even if the above commandments weren’t to add up to a more practical, safer, and more secure foreign (and domestic) policy, I would still be convinced that this was a better, saner way to go. As Americans demonstrate regularly when it comes to just about anything but terrorism, life is a danger zone and living with some level of insecurity is the human condition.  Making our safety and security ultimate values is a grotesque mistake. It essentially ensures a future state that bears no relation whatsoever to a democratic polity or to the values this country has championed.  Much that Americans once professed to cherish, from liberties to privacy, has already been lost along the way.

In your heart, you must know much of this, however you process it. I hope, under the circumstances, you’ll give some thought to what that word “patriot” should really mean in this country right now.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch.com 

P.S. In my own war on terror, I’ve recently been thinking that a few “thou shalts” are in order. To give you an example: Thou shalt honor the heroes of our American world—and no, I’m not talking about the U.S. military! I mean people like journalist James Risen, who barely avoided jail for doing his job as a reporter and has now dedicated his life to “fighting to undo damage done to press freedom in the United States by Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” or activist Kathy Kelly who is at present in a federal prison in Kentucky for having protested American drone strikes at an Air Force base in Missouri.

Area Closings and Delays on Wednesday, March 04, 2015

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Status of Area Closings and Delays on Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Glenville State College    
Gilmer County Board of Education    
Gilmer County Courthouse    
Gilmer County Health Department    
Gilmer County Senior Center  
 
Gilmer County Schools   Closing Early - 11:45 AM
Braxton County Schools   Closing Early - 2:00 PM
Calhoun County Schools All Closed  
Doddridge County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Lewis County Schools   Closing Early - 12:30 PM
Ritchie County Schools All Closed  
 
Barbour County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Clay County Schools   Closing Early - 3 Hours
Harrison County Schools   Closing Early - 4 Hours
Nicholas County Schools   Closing Early - 2 Hours
Pleasants County Schools All Closed  
Roane County Schools    
Tyler County Schools 2 Hour Delay  >>TO>>  All Closed  
Upshur County Schools 2 Hour Delay Closing Early - 12:00 PM
Webster County Schools Closing Early - 3 Hours
Wetzel County Schools    
Wirt County Schools    
Wood County Schools    

Please Send us your closings and delays:    or   304.462.8700

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G-TechNote™: The ‘Unstealable’ Bike to Begin Shipping in September

Three college kids in Chile captivated the Internet last August when they released a video of an “unstealable” bike. The video showed off the prototype of a bicycle in which the frame transformed into a locking mechanism. A thief would have to cut through the frame to take it, making it not worth the trouble to steal.

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After receiving millions of views on YouTube and nearly 10,000 e-mails, the trio – Andrés Roi Eggers, Cristobal Cabello and Juan José Monsalve — decided to drop out of their engineering program at Adolfo Ibanez University in Santiago and dedicate themselves full time to what they call the Yerka Project.

Their Indiegogo campaign will launch Wednesday, and the finalized bicycle will be sold for $399.

The Gilmer Free Press


The bicycle unlocks with a key, but there will be an option to buy a Bluetooth-powered feature so cyclists can unlock the bike with their smartphone. Both iOS and Android will be supported.

They tell me the first batch of bikes is expected to ship in September and should be arriving to owners in early October.

The Gilmer Free Press


The bicycle unlocks with a key, but there will be an option to buy a Bluetooth-powered feature so cyclists can unlock the bike with their smartphone. Both iOS and Android will be supported.

They tell me the first batch of bikes is expected to ship in September and should be arriving to owners in early October.

G-TechNote™: Someone (Probably the NSA) Has Been Hiding Viruses in Hard Drive Firmware

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“Hard to detect and even harder to remove”

The NSA may be hiding payloads in the firmware of consumer hard drives, according to a new report from Kaspersky Lab.

The report tracks a group that researchers have dubbed “Equation,“ which uses previously undiscovered methods to plant targeted malware in hard drive firmware, where it is difficult to detect or remove.

The report found exploits for hard drives made by many of the largest brands in the industry, including Samsung, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

The group is closely tied to Stuxnet, using many overlapping vulnerabilities and techniques over the same time period, and those similarities combined with previously published NSA hard drive exploits have led many to speculate that Encounter may be part of the NSA.

If true, the program would give the NSA unprecedented access to the world’s computers, even when disconnected from the larger web.

Viruses stored on a hard drive’s firmware are typically activated as soon as a device is plugged in, with no further action required.

They’re also usually undetectable and survive reformatting, making them difficult to detect and remove.

In July, independent researchers discovered a similar exploit targeting USB firmware — dubbed BadUSB — but there was no indication of the bugs being developed and deployed at this scale.

It also raises real questions about device manufacturers’ complicity in the program.

It would take extensive and sustained reverse engineering to successfully rewrite a device’s firmware.

The NSA would certainly be capable of it, but it’s also possible the NSA compelled companies to hand over the firmware code or intercepted it through other means.

Reached by Reuters, only Western Digital actively denied sharing source code with the NSA; the other companies declined to comment.

Movie Review: ‘The Lazarus Effect’

A naturally occurring brain chemical is the basis for the hallucinogenic goo that gets injected into subjects’ heads — along with a giant jolt of electricity — in “The Lazarus Effect,” a modern-day Frankenstein story about a team of medical researchers trying to raise the dead. Yet despite the presence of this potent drug — known among the party set as DMT — there’s precious little fun in this illogical and overly familiar thriller.

Despite classy lead performances by Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde, the movie, from horror factory Blumhouse (known for cranking out sequels in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, among others), relies too heavily on reanimated monster movie cliches and scientific gibberish to keep it alive. It staggers, zombielike, from one jump-scare to another before petering out, a scant 83 minutes after rising from the slab.

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After trying to resuscitate dead pigs and dogs, with mixed success, Duplass’s Dr. Frank (pun intended) Walton is forced to use his “Lazarus serum” on his girlfriend, Zoe (Wilde), after she is accidentally electrocuted while throwing the lab’s weirdly antique-looking power switch. More bizarrely, this otherwise high-tech facility seems to be plagued by the world’s balkiest power grid. Much of the film takes place in half or total darkness, with light bulbs flickering off and on at the peskiest times. Such as when Zoe, who has inexplicably returned to life with the powers of telekinesis, mind reading, clairvoyance, levitation and superhuman strength (a la Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy”), goes on a rampage.

I’d be cranky too, if roused from the dead. But Zoe’s bad mood is never really explained, despite a halfhearted attempt at a back story involving her recurring dreams of fire, which suggest an underlying malevolence of some sort. More interesting is the ongoing debate, early in the film, between Frank, an atheist, and Zoe, a devout Catholic, about scientific hubris and morality. It adds a bit of interest, but the subject eventually fizzles out in a killing spree.

As Zoe’s potential victims, the supporting cast of Donald Glover, Evan Peters and Sarah Bolger are fine, if underutilized. Perhaps in “The Lazarus Effect 2” — and yes, the movie ends with the suggestion of a sequel — they’ll all come back, high on life, if not DMT, to tie up the film’s frustrating loose ends.

PG-13. Contains some crude language, bloody violence and frightening images. 83 minutes.

Horoscopes: March 04, 2015

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One of the ways the universe teaches patience is by annoying us. If the whole world were just 10 percent more tolerant, it would be like paradise came down. Whatever ruffles your feathers, you can thank Mercury and Jupiter for the bothersome gift. You’ll be a better person for it. Bonus: Tomorrow it will seem like no big deal.

ARIES (March 21-April 19). It’s nice when things come easily, but it’s not always beneficial. Difficulties are just part of your initiation. They give you a sense of belonging you wouldn’t have otherwise, and they get you ready for the challenges ahead.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20). People have a tendency to reject what they haven’t tasted, but you’re more adventurous than that. The vegetables (and life’s equivalent) are typically good for you, and you’ll like them if you give them a chance.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21). You’ll find yourself in a room full of VIPs, and you very much belong there. Bring reality to the group before anyone’s head explodes. When everyone is famous, no one is famous.

CANCER (June 22-July 22). Your halfhearted effort will yield results that are on par with your wholehearted effort. Maybe this is unfair, or maybe it’s extremely fair, considering you’ve already put in your time and paid your dues.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22). Love may be stabilizing, but it’s not like a rock. You can’t give it to someone and expect it to keep the same shape through the ages. Like bread, you have to make it fresh every time you give it.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22). Rigor, relevance, relationships and responsibility. It’s more than a high school motto; it’s the way you live your life. These four “r’s” will shape your days this week.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). Einstein suggested that reality is a (very persistent) illusion, making a good case for persistence in general. If you behave in a certain way enough times, you’ll be characterized as the essence of that behavior.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). Your conscience will prevent you from fully indulging in extravagance. You’ll dip your toe in, though. How can you help it when such luxurious options present themselves?

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). There’s a competition going on, and if you continue to work hard, you’ll be the sure winner. Be sure to distinguish between competition and fun, though. There’s no winner at fun (unless you count everyone).

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). It’s said that the right habits will give you the key to the universe. Indeed, if you can command yourself to do as you think you should, you’ll have many new options.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18). Don’t assume that people know what you’re about. Start from the beginning. Give them some context. Take your time — they want you to. You’re more entertaining than you know.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20). You don’t write your name now the same way you did when you were 8, and you don’t dress the same way you did in the ’90s. Your style is ever-evolving, as is evident by today’s choices.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY (March 04). This month’s challenge is a no-brainer. You’ll excel because you do what you’re supposed to be doing. Next month will bring a new deal. Putting in extra work hours will help you fulfill a wish. June brings you a gift that’s hard to come by, rare or expensive. Someone special will capture your heart in September. Aries and Aquarius people adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 10, 8, 30, 15 and 19.

STORYTELLING BY THE STARS: Inside everyone and everything is a fascinating story, but it takes a stellar storyteller to find it. Yesterday’s trine of Jupiter in Leo and Uranus in Aries continues to bring good fortune to those who can captivate an audience with a good story. See the archives for part one and two of this series. Here are additional tips to help you hone this crucial life skill. Start in the Middle

Most people have a tendency to start too early in the story, thus losing their audience in the boring minutiae leading up to an event. Think of yourself as a runner about to make a leap. You don’t want to tire yourself out before you get to the hurdle. Back up just enough to give yourself the momentum of a running start. In other words, ask yourself what the most exciting part of the story is, and back up a few steps from that point. Subject Matter Matters

Perhaps the most important thing to know about storytelling is which story to tell. No matter how well you tell it, a bad match of audience to topic will never play, and a good one is hard to mess up.

CELEBRITY PROFILES: Katherine Cimorelli uploaded to YouTube the cover songs she performed with her sisters and helped the six smiling siblings to become an Internet sensation. The homeschooled crew now tours the world with their own version of popular songs, as well as originals written by top songwriters. Her sun and moon in Pisces points to great powers of creativity, while Mercury in Aries suggests a bubbly attitude.

G-MM™: Meditation Moment 150304

image

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.


Colossians 3:17

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


The Road Not Taken
And Now, for Something Completely Different

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost, 1916


Notes on the Scripture

To keep us from getting in a rut, we do something different every Wednesday, and today we are reading The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Summary

The speaker thinks back to a time he was standing in the woods, considering a fork in the road. Both ways were equally worn and equally overlaid with untrodden leaves. The speaker chose one, telling himself that he would take the other another day. Yet he knew, even then, that it was unlikely that he would have the opportunity to do so, for “way leads onto way”, and we tend to keep following the twists and turns of the path we are on, not to go back and start over. He realizes that he might have taken the other road with a sigh — there is something about it he regrets — but he took the road that fewer people take, and it completely changed how his life went.

First off, we have to understand that the meaning of the poem is complex. You cannot simply say, “the poet took the less-traveled road of creativity rather than joining a majority of conformists, and it made his life something wonderful and different.” He says that one of the roads “was grassy and wanted wear” — the grass had not been worn down by as many people walking on it. But then, in the next line he tells us, “Though as for that, the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same.” In other words, people walking had actually worn them down by the same amount. The statements seem totally contradictory.

Also, when he thinks about discussing, at some point in the future, how he took the road “less traveled by”, he does it with a sigh. There is an element of regret: but what does he regret? Is he lying about his road being less traveled (as some recent critics would tell us), making himself out to be some sort of special case when he is actually not?

There is a point, obvious when noticed but usually overlooked (by Scott Peck and many others), that serves as a starting point to understanding it. The title of the poem is “The Road Not Taken”, not “The Road Less Traveled”. The poem is primarily about the other road. Perhaps one might sum up the primary theme like this: “Even if you choose the best path in life, it will not be perfect; and by the nature of life, there will be things you missed that you might have done or had, if you had chosen another path.”

And in this is a wonderful message for Christians. We know that we have chosen the right path, because our path leads to perfection, to salvation, to eternal life and joy. But we will never quite be able to grasp God’s perfection and joy in our lifetime; as much as we die to our flesh, our flesh does not die. We hold a life in contradiction just like the speaker in Frost’s poem. Because we are human, we will have some sort of regret. Not a burning deep bitterness, not a wish that we had never found Christ; not by any means. The poet sighs; he doesn’t wail.

Did Paul or Mother Theresa even have a wistful moment, wishing they had married and had children? It is certainly possible. Using this as our example, on the other hand, are there devout Catholics who wished that they had taken vows of celibacy and not married, so that they might have served as priests or nuns? Absolutely. But this doesn’t mean that either the nun or the mother would change the path they took.

We know that we have taken the right road, and would lose everything else before we would give up Christ. He is our Alpha and Omega. He is so much the core of our identity that we say we live in Him. So we must not be perturbed about these bittersweet moments, thinking about what might have been. We sigh a bit, is all.

William L. Lake

The Gilmer Free Press

William L. Lake

Age 67, of Frametown, WV passed away March 01, 2015 at home.

He was born September 12, 1947 in Braxton County, WV a son of the late Leo Hilbert and Verma I. Lowther Lake.

He was retired from Equitrans, Inc. with 35 years of service.

He was a member of the Hope Baptist Church, Frametown.

He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and gardening.

He is survived by his spouse, Barbara Blake Lake; siblings, Hilbert W. “Bob” Lake and wife, Eulaine, Betty Sue Duncan and husband, William, Wallace R. Lake and wife, Cheryl, and Donna Brown; several nieces and nephews.

Per Mr. Lake’s request his body was cremated.

There will be no services.

Arrangements by Richard M. Roach Funeral Home, Gassaway.

Naomi Faye Slider Starcher

The Gilmer Free Press

Naomi Faye Slider Starcher

Age 77, of Monroe, North Carolina, passed away Saturday, February 28, 2015, at Jesse Helms Nursing Center.

Mrs. Starcher was born on January 24, 1938, in Calhoun County, West Virginia, a daughter of the late George E. Slider and Ada Blake Slider.

She was a homemaker in her own home.

Survivors include her husband, Gary Gene Starcher of Monroe, NC; a daughter, Barbra S. Coward and husband Joey of Darlington, SC; one brother, Larry Slider and wife Janice of Cameron, NC; three grandchildren, Brady Seals, Bradley Coward, and Stacey Coward; and two nephews Bryan Slider and wife Diana and Kevin Slider and wife Paige.

A Funeral service to Celebrate the Life of Naomi Starcher will be conducted at 2:00 PM Saturday, March 07, 2015, at Davis Funeral Chapel, 1003 East Franklin Street, Monroe, NC, officiated by Reverend Don Meadows.

The family will receive friends Saturday, March 07, from 1 PM until the time of the service.

Interment will follow in Lakeland Memorial Park Cemetery.

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