Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


The front-runners hope to emerge victorious in New York, contests that offer big delegate hauls and an opportunity for them to inch closer to their parties’ nominations.


Armed militants stage a coordinated assault on a government office in Kabul, killing at least 28 and wounding more than 300.


AP cites federal government data showing that 80 percent of immigrant children arriving alone at the U.S. border are placed with adults who are in the country illegally.


A shortage of food, water and other necessities underscores the vulnerability of earthquake victims in southern Japan.


Outraged over the congressional vote to impeachment her, Dilma Rousseff says she will not resign and vows to keep fighting her opponents.


Rescuers scramble to find survivors from a magnitude-7.8 earthquake as the death toll from the coastal South American country’s strongest earthquake in decades rises above 400.


Baltimore’s police department, political scene and several grassroots advocacy organizations have undergone transformation, but systemic issues for the African-American community still plague much of the city.


The U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement with the St. Louis suburb calls for sweeping changes where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by police.


The spunky actress who played the sharp-tongued, endlessly meddling mother on CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond,“ is dead at age 90.


Klay Thompson scores 34 points and Golden State’s supporting cast picks up the slack for their absent NBA MVP to hold off Houston 115-106 and take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Today is Voter registration deadline

Today, Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote in West Virginia.

In the last week, the Secretary of State’s Office saw a surge of over 10,000 people who interacted with their online voter registration portal.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant credited Facebook and other social media sites for asking users if they’ve registered to vote yet.

“I think that it just goes to show you what citizens do in the year 2016 when we interact with social media,” she said. “It’s reminding you that it’s time to get registered to vote.”

West Virginia joined more than 30 states in September 2015 to implement an online voter registration portal. Since then, Tennant said there have been more than 33,000 submissions from citizens in all 55 counties — including new registered voters or those who made changes to their information. Three percent were name changes, 22 percent have been party changes and 25 percent have been address changes.

About 50 percent of those 33,000 submissions were made by new voters.

As of Monday morning, the breakdown of new voters who made online submissions included 12,409 Republicans, 11,829 Democrats and 6,692 non affiliates.

The top five counties to use the online system included Monongalia, Wood, Berkeley, Raleigh and Harrison.

Tennant said Tuesday has been the most popular day of the week for online registration interactions with the largest amount of submissions occurring between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

“It proves to me that this is what citizens of West Virginia want,” Tennant said. “You should have that accessibility. If we have technology, we should use it to keep our voter roles clean, to save time and money.”

She added that West Virginians deserve to have modernized elections.

“If you give opportunities and choice to the people of West Virginia, this is what they’re choosing. They’re choosing to go online because it works best with their schedule and best with their every day lives,” she said.

With the state’s Primary Election less than a month away, Tennant said she didn’t want to predict voter turnout.

“You don’t put a number on it,” she said. “The voters will be the ones who determine it.”

In-person registrations can be filed with your county clerk. Mail has to be post marked by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Online registrations can be submitted until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night.

“I say why wait until the last minute? Do it when you have an opportunity now,” Tennant said.

Primary Election Day in West Virginia is May 10.

►   Koch Group Gives $100k to PAC Pushing GOP Governor Hopeful

A group fueled by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers has donated $100,000 to a super PAC supporting Republican Bill Cole for governor in West Virginia.

According to campaign finance reports, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Inc. wrote the check to the pro-Cole group Accelerate West Virginia in March.

One of the few Koch-connected groups that discloses donors, Freedom Partners Action Fund had $15 million cash available through February. Charles Koch gave $3 million in December.

In late January, Cole spoke about right-to-work at a Palm Springs retreat organized by the Koch brothers. Cole’s campaign told the Charleston Gazette-Mail he didn’t fundraise or campaign while there.

Cole, the state Senate president, is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Billionaire businessman Jim Justice, ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler are running as Democrats.

►   Simpson Tops Fundraising in 5-Way Dem Primary for U.S. House

Cory Simpson yielded the biggest fundraising haul in the five-way Democratic primary for first-term Republican Congressman Alex Mooney’s seat.

According to campaign finance reports, the Army veteran raised $115,000 from January through March. He loaned his campaign $20,000 and has $106,500 cash left. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer donated to Simpson.

Attorney Harvey Peyton raised $57,400 and loaned himself $25,000, with $31,500 cash remaining.

Attorney Mark Hunt raised $12,800 with a $42,500 loan. He has $3,100 left.

Reports weren’t available for Democrats Tom Payne and Robin Wilson.

Mooney’s first-quarter report wasn’t available. He had $320,800 cash left through December.

Mooney’s GOP primary opponent, Marc Savitt, raised $11,900 from January through March and has $2,200 remaining.

The 2nd Congressional District stretches hundreds of miles east to west, through Martinsburg and Charleston.

►   Teachers forced to consider effects of possible “draconian” cuts to PEIA

There’s still no budget for the coming fiscal year, so as it stands the PEIA is being forced to consider what it called “draconian” cuts to make up for a $120 million shortfall.

“The average family plan will face a 12.5 % percent pay cut due to increases if the proposed plan goes through without help,” said Independence Middle School teacher Fred Farris.

The proposed cuts would mean higher out-of-pocket costs for members and increased premiums for retirees, something that Jessica Morgan, a young teacher at Princeton Middle School, said would throw off her tight budget.

“I’m on a single plan. My deductible alone is going to go up $500 if this goes through,” she said. “I’m still paying student loans; I’m still paying for the education I got to become an educator.”

Morgan said many of her friends in teaching have left the Mountain State or are searching for jobs elsewhere for better insurance coverage, but she hoped not to do that.

“Not at the moment. I love West Virginia. I was born and raised in West Virginia, educated (here) at Concord University,” she said. “I don’t want to leave. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Other topics at the this year’s conference will include more effectively administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is entering its second year, and school calendar issues due to inclement weather.

The World’s Strongest Earthquakes Since 1900

The Free Press WV

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Ecuador’s central coast on Saturday. The country’s vice president called it the strongest to hit the country in decades. Here is a list of some of the world’s strongest earthquakes since 1900:


May 22, 1960: A magnitude-9.5 earthquake in southern Chile and ensuing tsunami kill at least 1,716 people.


March 28, 1964: A magnitude-9.2 quake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, kills 131 people, including 128 from a tsunami.


December 26, 2004: A magnitude-9.1 quake in Indonesia triggers an Indian Ocean tsunami, killing 230,000 people in a dozen countries.


March 11, 2011: A magnitude-9.0 quake off the northeast coast of Japan triggers a tsunami, killing more than 18,000 people.


November 04, 1952: A magnitude-9.0 quake in Kamchatka in Russia’s Far East causes damage but no reported deaths despite setting off 9.1-meter (30-foot) waves in Hawaii.


February 27, 2010: A magnitude-8.8 quake shakes Chile, generating a tsunami and killing 524 people.


January 31, 1906: A magnitude-8.8 quake off the coast of Ecuador generates a tsunami that kills at least 500 people.


February 04, 1965: A magnitude-8.7 quake strikes Alaska’s Rat Islands, causing an 11-meter (35-foot) -high tsunami.


March 28, 2005: A magnitude-8.6 quake in northern Sumatra in Indonesia kills about 1,300 people.


August 15, 1950: A magnitude-8.6 earthquake in Tibet kills at least 780 people.


April 11, 2012: A magnitude-8.6 quake off the west coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia triggers tsunami warnings in more than two dozen nations.


March 09, 1957: A magnitude-8.6 quake strikes the Andreanof Islands in Alaska triggers a 16-meter (52-foot) -high tsunami.


September 12, 2007: A magnitude-8.5 quake near Sumatra in Indonesia kills at least 25 people.


February 01, 1938: A magnitude-8.5 quake in Banda Sea, Indonesia, generates a small tsunami.


February 03, 1923: A magnitude-8.5 quake in Kamchatka in Russia’s Far East triggers a tsunami.


November 11, 1922: A magnitude-8.5 quake along the Chile-Argentina border triggers a tsunami that causes damage along Chile’s coast.


October 13, 1963: A magnitude-8.5 quake in the Kuril Islands triggers a tsunami.


September 16, 2015: A magnitude-8.3 earthquake in Illapel, Chile, killing 14 people.


December 12, 1979: A magnitude-8.2 earthquake near the Ecuadorean port city of Tumaco. It triggered a tsunami.


Recent major earthquakes:


April 25, 2015: a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal, killing more than 8,000 people.


March 02, 2016: A magnitude-7.8 earthquake strikes in the Indian Ocean, 800 kilometers (500 miles) southwest of Sumatra in Indonesia. Tsunami warnings were briefly issued for Indonesia and Australia.


April 16, 2016: A magnitude-7.8 earthquake on Ecuador’s central coast near the town of Muisne.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Feds Go After Nurse Accused of Being Drunk in OR

Prosecutors in Luzerne County, Pa., dropped a slew of charges against Richard Pieri, including DUI and reckless endangerment, in March. But that’s not good news for the former VA Medical Center nurse accused of downing four or five beers at a local casino and then assisting in an emergency appendectomy. On Friday, federal prosecutors took up the case and charged Pieri, 59, with reckless endangerment, as the alleged incident took place in a federal facility, the Times Leader reports. Pieri claims he forgot he was on call February 4 as he swilled beer and played slots, the Washington Post reports. An affidavit has him admitting that he knew he shouldn’t have been involved with the surgery, but didn’t want someone else to get called in to cover for him.

So he allegedly drove drunk to the hospital and staggered inside. “Rick, are you drunk or something,“ a coworker asked as he grew frustrated while trying to use the computer. A physician’s assistant says he smelled alcohol on someone in the operating room. Now, Pieri faces up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine for putting a patient “in danger of death or serious bodily harm,“ the Times-Tribune reports. Pieri’s estranged wife alleged in a restraining order application last year that he abuses alcohol, and that he has been abusive while drinking. In 1985, according to the Times Leader, Pieri was charged with killing a man in a hit-and-run accident.

►   Man Who Shot Firefighters Was ‘Defending Himself’

The Maryland man who opened fire on firefighters Friday night, killing one and seriously injuring another, is a “gentle person” who thought criminals were breaking into his home, his sister says. In what the sister calls a “tragic horror story,“ her 61-year-old brother shot at Prince George’s County firefighters who were trying to gain entry for a welfare check after receiving a call from the man’s brother, who said he was diabetic and had blacked out recently. “We are so sorry about the firefighter and for the family,“ the sister tells the Washington Post. “We were praying so hard.“ The fire department says the firefighters began breaking into the home after announcing themselves and pounding on the door, receiving no answer, reports Reuters.

“The way we’re looking at it now is it’s a terrible, terrible tragedy for everybody involved,“ Prince George’s County Fire Department chief spokesman Mark Brady says. The man was released without charge Saturday night after being questioned, ABC News reports. A spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office says an investigation will “determine what, if any, charges are appropriate.“ The fallen firefighter, 37-year-old John Ulmschneider, was married and had a 2-year-old daughter, for whom a YouCaring fund has been set up, reports NBC Washington. Brady describes the firefighter and paramedic as a “good old hard working country boy who loved his job.“ The wounded firefighter, 19-year-old Kevin Swain, was shot four times but is expected to survive.

►   New Mexico Students Say This Seal Is Offensive

The University of New Mexico’s official seal depicting a Spanish conquistador and a frontiersman is drawing accusations of racism from Native American students, the AP reports. Native American students in the Kiva Club, as well as members of advocacy group Red Nation, call the seal offensive, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The seal is stamped on all diplomas and is present at most school events. Oceti Sakowin tribe member and UNM doctoral student Nick Estes designed his own version of the seal in protest, with the conquistador and frontiersman standing atop a pile of bones. He spoke at an organizing meeting for students against the current seal, saying it represents racism at the school.

“To have this on my diploma is an insult of the highest order,“ Estes said. University President Bob Frank says he’d be open to discussing the students’ ideas. He earned degrees from the institution in the 1970s. “It’s a seal I have always known,“ Frank says. “I certainly understand that people may have different points of view. If they want to talk about it, I am open to the conversation.“ Students have started a petition opposing the seal, but no official complaint has been filed with the university.

►   Forget 50 States: America Is 7 Regions

America’s political division into 50 states is only hurting its ability to compete in the global economy, writes Parag Khanna at the New York Times. That’s because the US, like other nations, is clustering into city-centered economic regions that need social and economic support. “The 50-state model means that federal and state resources are concentrated in a state capital—often a small, isolated city itself—and allocated with little sense of the larger whole,“ writes Khanna, a senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. This holds back bigger cities, he adds, and ensures that smaller US cities will be “cut off from the national agenda, destined to become low-cost immigrant and retirement colonies, or simply to be abandoned.“

Khanna wants Congress to look at America as “seven distinct super-regions”: the Great Lakes, the Great Northeast, the Southeast Manufacturing Belt, the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains, the Inland West, and the Pacific Coast. Within these are “urban archipelagos” like the “Arizona Sun Corridor” (Phoenix to Tucson), the “Cascadia Belt” (Vancouver to Seattle), and the “megalopolis” from Boston to Washington (where 50 million people make up 20% of the US GDP). Such thinking could lead to smarter placement of roads, rail lines, telecommunications, data centers, and manufacturing plants—like China and Italy are already doing. “More than America’s military grand strategy, such an economic master plan would determine if America remained the world’s leading superpower,“ writes Khanna. See Khanna’s full piece HERE .

►   Mom Left Baby in Hot Car for Stripper Audition

There are the oops moments that every parent has, and then there is the case of 24-year-old Kelsey McMurtry: Nashville police say McMurtry left her 13-month-old daughter locked in her vehicle on a 72-degree day—clad in a heavy coat, with the windows closed—while she auditioned at a strip club called Deja Vu Showgirls, reports WSBV-TV. Passersby noticed the child and called police, who estimate that temperatures inside the car had surpassed 100 degrees, who found her soaked in sweat.

McMurtry’s friend, Summer Taylor, 19, said she was keeping an eye on the child, but police and witnesses say Taylor was inside the club watching the audition, reports WKRN. Both women were charged with child neglect; McMurtry was additionally charged with criminal impersonation for lying to cops about her identity so as to avoid a previous warrant. The child was taken to the hospital and is in the hands of Department of Children’s Services.

►   Texas Girl Shot With Real Gun at Water Gun Fight

Police are sorting through what they’re calling conflicting stories regarding an incident at a family gathering in a Houston suburb Saturday, but a 40-something man appears to have accidentally shot a 15-year-old girl during a water gun fight—except with an actual 9mm handgun, KTRK reports. Deputy constables say the man IDed as Jason Speights shot the teen in her shoulder, just an inch or so from her neck, and that she’s in stable condition and expected to recover, per KPRC 2.

A neighbor says Speights apparently went back to his car to get some dry clothes after being sprinkled during the water gun free-for-all, retrieved the 9mm, and mistakenly fired it. “When he went to holster it he was spinning it on his finger, he pulled the trigger and accidentally shot her near the collarbone,“ a teen witness tells KTRK. A bullet also hit a car five houses down. “It was crazy, like you would never expect somebody to bring a gun to a barbecue, or a family gathering at all,“ another neighbor tells KPRC. Speights has been charged with deadly conduct.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Workers Discover Lavish Roman Villa in Backyard

Start digging around in the backyard and you’re liable to unearth rusted bottle caps, utility pipes, or maybe a long-forgotten toy. Luke Irwin, on the other hand, discovered the remains of a lavish Roman villa on his property in Wiltshire, England, the Independent reports. The 1,400-year-old residence “was the country house of a powerful, rich Roman,“ archaeologist David Roberts tells the Guardian. Irwin and his wife, who recently moved to the property with their children, had decided to add lights to their barn so they could play table tennis at night. Though the electricians suggested overhead lines, the couple opted to bury them. The workers hit a hard layer about 18 inches down. It proved to be pieces of mosaic. Irwin, who designs “luxury rugs for the Roman aristocrats of today,“ says he knew right away that it was a significant find.

“Fortunately,“ he recalls, “we were able to stop the workmen just before they began to wield pickaxes.“ Irwin contacted Historic England and archaeologists rushed to the property to begin an excavation. Calling the site “hugely valuable,“ Roberts tells the Guardian the discovery “is unparalleled in recent years and it gives us a perfect opportunity to understand Roman and post-Roman Britain.“ It’s not just the size of the building, believed to be three stories, that indicates it was the home of an important Roman: It’s the stuff scientists have found along with the house—the discarded oyster shells, for instance, which would have been imported from the coast. “High status pottery,“ coins, and the mosaic flooring itself all point to wealth. Also discovered was a stone, child-sized coffin that was serving as a planter for geraniums.

►   Drone May Have Hit Plane Landing at Heathrow

In what the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority says would be “a totally unacceptable” first, a British Airways plane landing at Heathrow appears to have been hit by a drone on Sunday, the BBC reports. The Airbus A320 coming into London from Geneva had 132 passengers and five crew members aboard, a BA spokesman tells CNN; the incident was reported after the BA pilot touched down. “Our aircraft landed safely, was fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight,“ the rep says. No arrests have been made (it’s unclear whose drone it may have been), and the aviation security arm of the Metropolitan Police is looking into the matter. Police note that flying a drone too close to a plane is illegal, NBC News reports, with punishment including up to five years in prison.

Specifically, drones over 15 pounds can’t fly higher than 400 feet and aren’t permitted to fly “beyond the direct unaided line of sight” of its operator or near crowds or buildings. Not that the incident came as a total surprise: The head of the International Air Transport Association had previously noted the “real and growing threat” of a drone-plane hit, while a British Airline Pilots Association rep says it was “only a matter of time.“ A recent study by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone underscores the danger in US airspace, with 327 “close encounters” of drones flying within 500 feet of manned aircraft between December 2013 and September 15, and at least 28 pilots “[maneuvering] to avoid a collision with a drone.“ Frighteningly, aviation experts say they don’t really know what would happen if a drone got sucked into a plane’s engine, a Civil Aviation Authority rep tells NBC.

►   Woman Hops Tiger Fence to Get Hat Back

People at the Toronto Zoo want to talk to somebody who got too close for comfort to one of their Sumatran tigers—for the sake of a hat. A video that surfaced over the weekend shows a woman hopping a fence at the tiger enclosure to retrieve a fallen hat, the CBC reports. The tiger can be seen lunging at the woman, who is behind a second fence. “You’re a moron,“ a man can be heard shouting after she climbs out of the area. “You’re a bad example to everyone else’s kids.“ CityNews reports that if the woman, who ignored warning signs, is identified, she could face a maximum $2,000 fine and a long-term zoo ban.

►   Brazil Congress Votes to Impeach Rousseff

For the second time in under a quarter century, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has voted to open impeachment proceedings against a democratically elected leader, dealing a devastating blow to President Dilma Rousseff, whose left-leaning Workers’ Party came to power 13 years ago on the promise of improving the lot of the poor. The 367-137 vote late Sunday in favor of impeachment was well over the 342 votes needed for the proceedings to move ahead to the Senate, where a majority vote will determine whether Rousseff is put on trial and suspended while Vice President Michel Temer temporarily takes over, the AP reports. The exact date of the Senate vote is not known, but it’s widely expected by the middle of next month.

The vote in the lower house sparked elation among many Brazilians, who hold Rousseff responsible for everything from the devastating recession to chronic high taxes and poor public services. At the same time, a broad swath of the population was deeply upset by the results, which many decried as anti-democratic and worrisome. Rousseff has been accused of violating fiscal laws by using sleight-of-hand accounting to maintain government spending. Noting she hasn’t been accused of any crime, she insists the impeachment is a “coup” and has pledged never to resign. Attorney General Jose Eduardo Cardozo said after the vote that Rousseff would address the situation Monday. He also hinted an appeal could be filed with the Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil’s highest court.

►   Fake Pizza Deliverymen Arrest Mafia Boss

A pizza- and soccer-loving Mafia boss in Naples is on his way to prison, not the Museum of Italian Stereotypes. Cops say 35-year-old Roberto Manganiello was arrested at his home Saturday night by police officers disguised as pizza deliverymen, AFP reports. He had been on the run since 2013 and was listed as one of Italy’s 100 most dangerous criminals for crimes that included an alleged 2004 double murder that started a bloody feud in the Camorra Mafia clan. Police say he was running a drug and extortion racket from the home north of Naples, where he was arrested without incident after opening the door to the phony delivery boys. The Independent notes that after the arrest, Manganiello’s day got even worse when his home team, Napoli, was beaten 2-0 by Inter Milan, ending its hopes of a first league title since 1990.

►   Pope: Sanders encounter sign of good manners, ‘nothing more’

ROME — Pope Francis said his brief encounter Saturday with U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was a sign of good manners, “nothing more,“ and hardly evidence of interfering in American politics.

The White House hopeful called it a “real honor” to meet “one of the extraordinary figures” in the world, a kindred spirit on economic inequality, which is a main Sanders’ campaign theme.

Francis was on his way to Greece to highlight the plight of refugees and Sanders was wrapping up his trip to Rome when they met in the lobby of the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens. The Vermont senator had attended a Vatican conference Friday on economic inequality and climate change, and flew back to New York for campaign events on Saturday.

“This morning when I left, Senator Sanders was there. ... He knew I was leaving at that time and I had the kindness to greet him and his wife and another couple who were with them,“ the pope told reporters traveling back with him to the Vatican.

“When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist,“ the pope said.

Earlier, Sanders said in an The Associated Press interview that he told the pope that he appreciated the message that Francis was sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said that was a message he, too, has tried to convey.

“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,“ Sanders said. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.“

Sanders said he had the chance to tell the pope that “I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.“

Sanders and his wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the hotel, on the same floor as the pope. Francis noted to reporters that members of the Vatican conference that Sanders had attended also were staying at the hotel.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Sanders foreign policy adviser, said there were no photographs taken of the pope and Sanders together. Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs, said Francis was “100 percent correct that this was not a political meeting,“ thanking the pope’s staff making the arrangements. He said Sanders and his wife “were advised the night before to be ready to meet the pope at 6 a.m.“

The Vatican is loath to get involved in electoral campaigns, and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship as far as the pope is concerned, although Francis in February rebuked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over Trump’s stand on immigration.

Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo opportunity with the sitting head of state can be exploited for political ends.

But Francis has been known to flout Vatican protocol, and the meeting with Sanders was evidence that his personal desires often trump Vatican diplomacy.

“His message is resonating with every religion on earth with people who have no religion and it is a message that says we have got to inject morality and justice into the global economy,“ Sanders said.

Sanders said the meeting should not be viewed as the pope injecting himself into the campaign.

“The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life,“ Sanders said in the interview. “And I am just very much appreciated the fact that the pope in many ways has been raising these issues in a global way in the sense that I have been trying to raise them in the United States.“

Sachs said Sanders saw the pope in the foyer of the domus, and that the encounter lasted about five minutes. Sanders later joined his family, including some of his grandchildren, for a walking tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic shrines.

The trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, putting him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents at the Vatican conference.

Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against rival Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy. But Sanders was peppered with questions from academics and ecclesiastics during Vatican conference in a manner that might have been afforded a head of state.

The invitation to Sanders to address that session raised eyebrows when it was announced and touched off allegations that the senator lobbied for the invitation.

But the chancellor for the pontifical academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, said he invited Sanders because he was the only U.S. presidential candidate who showed deep interest in the teachings of Francis.

Once back home, Sanders was set to refocus on Tuesday’s pivotal presidential contest in New York, a state with a significant number of Catholic voters. Clinton holds a lead among the delegates who will determine the Democratic nominee, and Sanders is trying to string together a series of victories in upcoming contests to draw closer.

►   Grim new details of IS destruction in Syria’s Palmyra museum

DAMASCUS, Syria — The first foreign experts who visited the museum in Palmyra after it was taken over from Islamic State militants said they spent a week collecting fragments of priceless broken sculptures from the museum grounds and preparing them for transportation to Damascus in a rescue mission they hope will help salvage most of its contents.

Back in the Syrian capital Saturday, they offered grim new details about the extent of the destruction caused by the extremists during their 10-month stay in the ancient town.

The museum was trashed and some of its best-known artifacts and statues were smashed by the militants, who cut off the heads and hands of statues and demolished others before being driven out last month.

Bartosz Markowski, from the Polish Archaeological Center at the University of Warsaw, told The Associated Press that most of the 200 objects which were exhibited on the ground floor of the Palmyra museum were destroyed, many of them apparently with hard tools like hammers. Many artifacts have been stolen, he added, thought it was not possible to know how many.

He and his colleagues were the first specialists to visit Palmyra after it was taken over by the Syrian army, and spent a week working and assessing the damage.

“We collected everything we could. The fragments were spread around the whole museum among broken glass and furniture ... It is a catastrophe,“ he said, speaking to the AP in the garden of the National Museum in Damascus.

During their rule of Palmyra, the extremists demolished some of the most famous Roman-era monuments that stand just outside the town, including two large temples dating back more than 1,800 years and a Roman triumphal archway, filming the destruction themselves for the world to see. The sprawling outdoor site, a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as the museum were among Syria’s main tourist attractions before the civil war.

Among the best-known statues destroyed was the famous Lion of Allat, a 2000-year-old statue which previously greeted visitors and tourists outside the Palmyra museum. The statue, which used to adorn the temple of Allat, a pre-Islamic goddess in Palmyra, was defaced by IS militants and knocked over by bulldozers.

On a visit to Palmyra on Thursday, The Associated Press saw the statue lying outside the museum building with its face cut and some of its broken pieces lying next to it.

“Fortunately we collected most of the fragments and I hope it can be reconstructed very soon,“ said Markowski, who in 2005 took part in a Polish archaeological mission that did renovation work on the statue.

His colleague, Robert Zukowski, said the limestone lion statue should be the first thing restored and “it should stay in Palmyra as a sign of resistance against the barbarians. “

In addition to the damage inflicted by IS, Markowski said the museum building has suffered structural damage due to bombs falling.

“There’s broken ceilings, broken walls, roofs, a lot of garbage and fragments of bricks everywhere, and among that there are fragments of sculptures,“ he said.

He said the restoration will require a massive international effort and years to accomplish.

“I think most of the objects can be restored, but they will never look as they did before,“ he added.

►   Egypt protests after el-Sissi gives islands to Saudi Arabia

CAIRO — Egyptian security forces arrested dozens and fired tear gas Friday at thousands of demonstrators protesting President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s decision to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Chants of “leave, leave!“ directed at el-Sissi marked the first significant wave of street protests since the former army chief became president in 2014.

Riot police first cracked down on protesters in Cairo’s twin city of Giza, where demonstrators had gathered at two mosques after Friday prayers and started marching toward Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Many carried signs reading, “Land is Honor” and denouncing the surrender of the islands. Others chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime” and “Down with military rule!“

More than 80 people were arrested in Cairo, Giza and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, security officials said.

All unauthorized demonstrations in Egypt are illegal under a law adopted in late 2013 and security forces have, in the past, used lethal force against peaceful demonstrators. Protesters set April 25 — a holiday marking the restoration of Egyptian control over the Sinai Peninsula after years of Israeli occupation — as a new date for the second wave of protests.

Egypt’s state news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying the protesters in Giza belonged to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and chanted “anti-regime slogans.“ Police responded with tear gas after protesters threw rocks, he said.

Another demonstration by nearly 2,000 protesters gathered outside the Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo, a few meters away from lines of policemen in full riot gear and backed by armored vehicles who sealed off surrounding streets.

The protesters there chanted, “They sold our lands to the Saudis” and “The islands are Egyptian.“

In some ways, the Cairo downtown protest resembled the atmosphere during the 18-day uprising in 2011 at Tahrir. Some protesters Friday wrapped themselves in Egypt’s black, white and red flags, others wrote on the asphalt “erhal!“ or “leave!“ Small groups sang patriotic songs and at one point everyone sang the national anthem.

Except for a handful of bearded men and female protesters wearing full-face veils, there was little sign of an organized Islamist presence among the demonstrators. But there were several incidents that underlined tension between secular and Islamist protesters, with one leading to an altercation.

“No matter how bad the Muslim Brotherhood were, they could not be worse than the military and remnants of the Mubarak regime we have now,“ said protester Ali Mohiey, a 24-year-old student from Cairo. “Today, there is no Brotherhood or secularists. It’s a day for one people against the sale of our land, oppression and detentions.“

“If we give up the lands now, there will be more future concessions for (el-Sissi) to stay in power,“ said another protester, Alaa Morsi, echoing a widely-held notion that el-Sissi essentially bartered Egyptian territory for Saudi financial aid to shore up his rule.

Shortly after nightfall, police fired tear gas and chased protesters through Cairo’s downtown streets. Some protesters hurled firecrackers at the police. On social networking sites, activists exchanged notes on the safest places to hide from police. Witnesses said riot police also beat up protesters with batons.

What infuriated many about the islands issue was the secretive nature of the deal as well as its timing. It was announced during a recent visit by King Salman, the Saudi monarch, who pledged billions of dollars of loans and investment to Egypt. Critics and even some former el-Sissi supporters said it was a desperate and humiliating territorial sell-off.

“He should have told us before the deal,“ said 28-year-old lawyer and protester Rania Rafaat, who was carrying a banner that read, “el-Sissi sold his land, leave.“

El-Sissi has defended his decision and tried to defuse the outcry.

“We did not surrender our rights, but we restored the rights of others,“ he said on Wednesday. “Egypt did not relinquish even a grain of sand.“

The government insists the islands of Tiran and Sanafir off the southern coast of Egypt’s Sinai at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba belong to Saudi Arabia, which asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them from Israel. Israel captured the islands in the 1967 Middle East war, but handed them back to Egypt under their 1979 peace treaty.

In response, Egyptians have taken to social networking sites, posting old maps to prove Egypt’s ownership of the islands.

Though relatively small in number, Friday’s protests come at a time of public tension and tight security, underscoring increasing public discontent over el-Sissi’s 22-month rule. In July 2013, as army chief, he led the ouster of Mohammed Morsi following mass protests against the Islamist president’s rule. El-Sissi followed up with a crackdown on Islamists in which thousands have been jailed and hundreds killed in street clashes with police.

Egypt has been roiled by unrest since the 2011 uprising toppled Mubarak’s authoritarian regime. Following his ouster of Morsi, el-Sissi was hailed as the country’s savior. But the general-turned-politician now faces a series of crises, including a surging Islamic insurgency in Sinai, an ailing economy, as well as deeply disenchanted youth and democracy advocates who see him as another version of Mubarak.

El-Sissi still retains a large base of support among Egyptians who fear for their security, and see him as the only protection against an Islamist takeover or state disintegration. At a small rally Friday in Alexandria, dozens of supporters carried posters with photographs of the president and chanted, “We love you, el- Sissi!“

The calls for the Friday protests in Cairo prompted the Interior Ministry to beef up security in Tahrir Square, shutting down the subway station there and positioning dozens of police vehicles mounted by masked riot police.

Earlier, the state MENA news agency quoted an unnamed ministry official as saying police were “encircling” strategic routes into the capital. The precautions, he said, would prevent “infiltration of the terrorist group” bent on causing chaos — a reference to Morsi’s Brotherhood.

►   Mystery Foam Strikes Japanese City After Quakes

A mysterious foam spread through the streets of a Japanese city on Saturday after two earthquakes struck the country, killing dozens of people, Mashable reports. With pedestrians and drivers in Fukuoka moving through the muck, people posted images of it on Twitter (  HERE and   HERE ). One called it “disgusting,“ the Independent reports, but a downtown resident wasn’t too concerned: “People were posting pictures on Twitter and it was near my house, so I went out to have a look,“ says Kazuki Nabeta. “There was a fire engine there. There wasn’t anything special about it—it was normal foam.“ Some in the southern city say a burst pipe may have unleashed the foam, the Telegraph reports. The quakes, which struck Thursday and Saturday, have killed at least 41 people and injured about 1,500.

West Virginia Board of Education Helps Students Prepare for the 21st Century World of Work

West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) meeting included several actions which will help arm students with career-ready technology skills.

The WVBE unanimously approved to repeal and replace Policy 2510, Assuring the Quality of Education: Regulations for Education Programs during its monthly meeting in Charleston. The policy incorporates three current policies (2442.3, Maximum Teacher-Pupil Ratio, Grades K-6, 2450, Distance Learning and the WV Virtual School, and 2515, Uniform Grading) to provide additional flexibility to districts concerning the number of instructional minutes required for high school credit-bearing courses and inclusion of course requirements across content areas.

Under the new policy, all public high schools and Career and Technical Centers must offer a computer science course beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.

“In order to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century world of work, we must focus on ensuring our students master the technology skills needed in today’s competitive academic and professional marketplace,” said West Virginia Board of Education President Mike Green. “The jobs of the future will require critical thinking skills, particularly in the areas of math and science, and courses such as computer science can benefit all students regardless of what field they ultimately pursue.”

Additionally, the WVBE viewed a technology showcase video on the new Microsoft Imagine Academy. The video served as an update to the program which rolled out in 2014 in all high schools and Career and Technical Centers. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was instrumental in allocating funding for the program which enables students across West Virginia to graduate with informational technology (IT) certifications. By participating in the program, schools provide training on fundamental technology skills and offer technical courses which enable students to graduate with industry-recognized credentials.







Through the Microsoft Imagine Academy, educators and students in schools across West Virginia have access to recently released, industry relevant, exploratory Computer Science and programming curriculum to introduce computer science concepts and practical applications for K-12 students. Courses include hands-on coding experiences with Minecraft as well as learning introductory computer science skills via the popular Creative Coding through Games & Apps (CCGA) programming course. This year, West Virginia teachers across the state have participated in CCGA computer science professional development training sessions to build skills for delivering the classroom curriculum and to be STEM leaders for peers. In addition, through the Microsoft Imagine Academy, high school students have the opportunity to validate their technical skills and knowledge for the workforce and earn a globally recognized industry certification credential respected by employers.

“Investments in computer science education sustain American innovation,” said Fred Humphries, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for U.S. Government Affairs. “West Virginia has demonstrated leadership by making computer science courses count toward high school graduation and is now going beyond this effort to require computer science to be taught in every high school in the state. We applaud their leadership on this important issue.”

According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, more than 50 percent of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills, and experts say that percentage will increase to 77 percent in the next decade. The gap between the demand for IT professionals and supply of qualified employees with the right technical skills is predicted to be as high as 40 percent over the next five to 10 years.

CommunityConcerns™: Are We Not Living in America?

Dr. Martirano, Mr. Green, and Dr. Daniel
Why Tolerate Continuing WVDOE Abuses of Gilmer County?

The Free Press WV

When school system intervention occurs the underpinnings of a democracy are destroyed to allow the WVDOE and the WVBOE to seize absolute power.

  • Control is accompanied by embargoing a County’s money and spending it at will to include exercising unilateral dictatorial power to obligate a County into long term debt.

  • Nullifying the U. S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process by preventing a school board from using public money for legal counsel and use of the legal system while the State authorizes itself to use the money for legal assistance.

  • Neutralizing the elected school board to make it inoperable while applying divide and conquer techniques to sabotage solidarity among its elected members.

  • Censorship to control access to information and to use it selectively to shield the State from anything negative to fulfill public opinion manipulation motives.

  • Voiding of local level checks and balances by including only the ruling class in decision-making with bogus claims that a community’s cross section is involved to determine a school system’s future.

  • Allowing misinformation to be disseminated to contribute to mass confusion and disarray as a strategy to impede common citizens from banding together against the State’s repression.

  • Awarding no-bid contracts to favored businesses instead of spending public money wisely as a responsible State agency would do to maximize benefits for children.

  • Avoiding transparency intentionally to allow the State to conduct its business secretly which typifies tactics of a dictatorial junta.

  • Fueling fears that those who speak out against the State will be punished through reprisals against their children, loss of jobs, inability to get jobs, and other intimidations.

Regarding censorship in Gilmer County, one approach is careful sanitizing of school board meeting minutes to avoid entry of everything unflattering to the State.

For examples, what got into minutes regarding botches at the Linn School, problems at Crooked Run before that costly project was abandoned, building the new consolidated school in a flood plain, information about the candle wick incident at Normantown that morphed into a few paper towels strewn on the floor, thievery at Troy Elementary, the school board’s persistent and ignored pleas for information related to school system finances, personnel and other areas of important concern, failure to disclose net annual costs of the Minnie Hamilton move and costs associated with renovating the facility for move-in condition, grievances filed against the school board, concerns about truancy as reported in the Gazette-Mail, and many other concerns including the County’s school system being on a fund watch by Charleston? A fund watch is serious because it is an official warning from the WVDOE that there is danger of deficit spending by a school system.

The most recent issue involved refusal of the State to accept that Gilmer County’s school board passed a motion in March 2016 to require thorough meeting minutes to be kept for the public record. Enhanced transparency and accountability were the board’s intent.

What happened? At the April 2016 the State denied that the March motion was made and passed! The fact that proceedings of the March meeting were videotaped by the Free Press made no difference as did presence of witnesses.  Also, the fact that the State had taped proceeding of the March meeting was ignored.  Dr. Cindy Daniel the Deputy State Superintendent of Schools attended the meeting as an observer.

Gilmer County has suffered enough from the State’s five long years of repression.  A special appeal is made to Dr. Cynthia Daniel and Dr. Michael Martirano, her supervisor, and to Mr. Michael Green who heads the WVBOE, to end the County’s maltreatment by restoring democratic processes.

Government power in a democracy must be moderated by inviolate guarantees that it does not abuse its people. That basic principle of government for the people was a bedrock premise of America’s founding fathers. The State nullified that sacred right in Gilmer County when our school system was intervened.

Lord Acton said “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His maxim applies perfectly to intervention abuses imposed on the County by the State’s WVDOE and the WVBOE.

What should be done to combat the State’s latest abuse? One choice would be to file a formal WV Ethics Commission complaint followed by using the Internet and social media to flood WV with alerts about the action. Prior to filing with the Ethics Commission the State could be given one week to reverse its arbitrary and capricious decision.

The serious violation of basic democratic principles by the State’s denial of a legal motion for better meeting minutes for the official public record calls attention to recent information on the Internet. Dr.  Cindy Daniel was credited with staunch advocacy for honesty, full access to information, and transparency.

We will soon know what Dr. Daniel, Dr. Martirano, and Mr. Green will do about this latest example of dictatorial abuse related to meeting minutes.  Inaction would suggest their collective approval of the County’s continuing flagrant treatment or that they are not empowered to make necessary corrections.

GSC Early Freshman Registration Week

The Free Press WV

Glenville, WV – Incoming Glenville State College students have an opportunity to visit the campus between Monday, April 18 and Saturday, April 23 for Early Freshman Registration Week. The event, which takes place on six separate days so you can choose the day that best suits your schedule, will provide students and their families the opportunity to prepare for the fall semester and learn what it means to be a GSC Pioneer.

“Early Registration Week is the best opportunity to get registered for classes and take care of setting up everything for the fall,” said Director of Admissions Ashley Weir. “I encourage all students who have committed to GSC to take advantage of this week.”

The GSC Early Freshman Registration Week will begin each day with check-in at the Heflin Administration Building’s Presidents Auditorium at 8:30 a.m. followed by a welcome from Admissions Office staff at 9:00 a.m. Participants then will proceed to class registration and financial aid before making their way to lunch at Mollohan’s Restaurant between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

For more information and to register for your preferred day, visit or call 304.462.6130.

State EITC Hailed As Bipartisan Job Creation, Development Idea

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Some Republican lawmakers say a state Earned Income Tax Credit would add jobs by rebuilding West Virginia’s workforce.

The EITC is a line on federal tax forms that rewards work by low-income families. About half of states also have a state EITC. Del. Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell County, said some GOP members want to add West Virginia. By rewarding people for taking low-wage employment, he said, the tax credit could reduce the number of folks who feel hopeless and disconnected from the job market. In turn, Rohrbach said, a happier workforce would make the state more appealing to employers.

The Free Press WV
Delegate Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell County, says
a state EITC could make West Virginia more appealing
for employers by rebuilding the state workforce.

“This is an attempt to keep people here, get them working, get our workforce numbers up, get our participation numbers up,“ he said, “and then, hopefully, we can attract better-paying employers.“

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy has estimated that a state EITC one-seventh the size of the federal one would cost $47 million a year and help 140,000 working-poor households.

The governor and legislators still are struggling to close a big gap in the current budget. Rohrbach admitted that the EITC is a “tough sell” this year, but said once the state gets past the present “painful” money problems, it’s going to start thinking long-term again.

“I would fit this into one of the longer-term solutions - to support people, to get them in entry-level jobs, and then get them some experience, and they can grow from there,“ he said. “But the first step has got to be to get them in the workforce.“

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has said it plans to introduce state EITC legislation in the next regular session.

More information is online at

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Poll: Americans Prefer Low Prices To Items ‘Made In The USA’

The Free Press WV

WASHINGTON — The vast majority of Americans say they prefer lower prices instead of paying a premium for items labeled “Made in the USA,“ even if it means those cheaper items are made abroad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

While presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are vowing to bring back millions of American jobs lost to China and other foreign competitors, public sentiment reflects core challenges confronting the U.S. economy. Incomes have barely improved, forcing many households to look for the most convenient bargains instead of goods made in America. Employers now seek workers with college degrees, leaving those with only a high school degree who once would have held assembly lines jobs in the lurch. And some Americans who work at companies with clients worldwide see themselves as part of a global market.

Nearly three in four say they would like to buy goods manufactured inside the United States, but those items are often too costly or difficult to find, according to the survey released Thursday. A mere 9 percent say they only buy American.

Asked about a real world example of choosing between $50 pants made in another country or an $85 pair made in the United States — one retailer sells two such pairs made with the same fabric and design — 67 percent say they’d buy the cheaper pair. Only 30 percent would pony up for the more expensive American-made one. People in higher earning households earning more than $100,000 a year are no less likely than lower-income Americans to say they’d go for the lower price.

“Low prices are a positive for US consumers — it stretches budgets and allows people to save for their retirements, if they’re wise, with dollars that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day living,“ said Sonya Grob, 57, a middle school secretary from Norman, Oklahoma who described herself as a “liberal Democrat.“

But Trump and Sanders have galvanized many voters by attacking recent trade deals.

From their perspective, layoffs and shuttered factories have erased the benefits to the economy from reduced consumer prices.

“We’re getting ripped off on trade by everyone,“ said Trump, the Republican front-runner, at a Monday speech in Albany, New York. “Jobs are going down the drain, folks.“

The real estate mogul and reality television star has threatened to shred the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He has also threatened to slap sharp tariffs on China in hopes of erasing the overall $540 billion trade deficit.

Economists doubt that Trump could deliver on his promises to create the first trade surplus since 1975. Many see the backlash against trade as frustration with a broader economy coping with sluggish income gains.

“The reaction to trade is less about trade and more about the decline in people’s ability to achieve the American Dream,“ said Caroline Freund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “It’s a lot easier to blame the foreigner than other forces that are affecting stagnant wage growth like technology.“

But Trump’s message appeals to Merry Post, 58, of Paris, Texas where the empty factories are daily reminders of what was lost. Sixty-eight percent of people with a favorable opinion of Trump said that free trade agreements decreased the number of jobs available to Americans.

“In our area down here in Texas, there used to be sewing factories and a lot of cotton gins,“ Post said. “I’ve watched them all shut down as things went to China, Mexico and the Philippines. All my friends had to take early retirements or walk away.“

Sanders, the Vermont senator battling for the Democratic nomination, has pledged to end the exodus of jobs overseas.

“I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have,“ Sanders told the New York Daily News editorial board earlier this month, saying that the wages paid to foreigner workers and environmental standards would be part of any deal he would strike.

Still, voters are divided as to whether free trade agreements hurt job creation and incomes.

Americans are slightly more likely to say free trade agreements are positive for the economy overall than negative, 33 percent to 27 percent. But 37 percent say the deals make no difference. Republicans (35 percent) are more likely than Democrats (22 percent) to say free trade agreements are bad for the economy.

On jobs, 46 percent say the agreements decrease jobs for American workers, while 11 percent say they improve employment opportunities and 40 percent that they make no difference. Pessimism was especially pronounced among the 18 percent of respondents with a family member or friend whose job was offshored. Sixty-four percent of this group said free trade had decreased the availability of jobs.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Former finance chair Delegate Brent Boggs and others take look at state budget issues

CHARLESTON, WV — Two of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s budget cut scenarios would shoulder higher education with a large budget cut, according to state Senator Roman Prezioso.

“Higher ed is one of the low-hanging fruits,” Prezioso (D-Marion) said on MetroNews “Talkline.” “We certainly have to be cautious about further cuts to higher ed because we’ve substantially cut them over the last four years and there’s not much meat left on that bone.”

The Tomblin administration scenarios focus on $270 million in budget cuts if there was no new revenue from tax increases. Scenarios impacting higher education are 10 percent and 18 percent budget cuts plus the elimination of the Promise Scholarship program. Some see the scenarios as the governor’s attempt to put pressure on the Republican leadership in the legislature.

Former House Finance Committee Chair Brent Boggs (D-Braxton), who is currently a member of the House Finance Committee, supports a multi-layered plan to deal with the budget problem.

“When you have cut as far as you can you have to look at a combination of strategic cuts or sweeping of some accounts, a little Rainy Day, as little as possible and then some revenue enhancements,” Boggs said. “I think we can find a combination of that.”

Boggs did express concern during a Friday interview on MetroNews “Talkline” the lack of communication from the Republican leadership in the House.

“If they can’t get the numbers (vote numbers) themselves then I think they need to be coming to us and say, ‘How would you be willing to help us?‘” Boggs said.

Prezioso, who spent time as Senate Finance Committee chair, said some decisions need to be made soon for higher education. The individual schools have to finalize their budgets, he said.

►   Spring gobbler season opens earlier than usual for 2016

A number of spring turkey hunters in West Virginia have long complained the season in our state opened too late. For many years Virginia and other neighboring states have opened up their spring gobbler season at least a week before West Virginia.  That won’t be the case this year.

West Virginia’s opening day for spring gobbler hunting is Monday, April 18, a full week earlier than previous years.  The Natural Resources Commission agreed to the change, but will closely monitor how it goes and could easily return it to the fourth Monday in April if it shows any negative impact on the turkey numbers..

“I think it was a bending to pressure from the public,” said Keith Krantz, small game biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “But I think they agreed to it with the understanding they could easily change it back if necessary.”

It isn’t the first time the season has opened early.  Krantz said the earlier opening was tried back in 1964 but it didn’t produce a measurable change in the outcome.  He didn’t ‘t think the change this year would make much difference either.

“I really will be surprised if it brings forth what the public wants,” he said. “I say that because the gobblers are still with hens and they’ll be with hens even more when bringing the season in earlier.  They might hear more gobbling, but I don’t think, they’re going to have any more success at calling a gobbler away from a group of hens.”

The long held resistance to move back opening day came for a couple of reasons. There is some dispute about whether it’s better to open the season at the time of the first peak gobbling or afterward. The concern would be shooting mature gobblers before they have been able to complete breeding the majority of hens.  The other issue stems from data from several decades ago which indicated allowing hunting before the majority of hens go to nest tended to increase incidents of poaching.  When hens are on the nest they aren’t exposed to hunters and are unlikely to wind up at the end of a poacher’s gun.

“We run into more issues with hens being in front of hunters the earlier in the month it starts,” said Krantz.  “We hope most hens will be on the nest and won’t be in front of a hunter and possibly leading to a mistake.”

Since a legal turkey must have a three inch visible beard, Krantz said there’s no excuse for such a mistake.

As for turkey numbers in West Virginia, brood reports from 2015 were stellar, especially in the southern coalfield counties.  However, it’s the hatch from two years ago on which Krantz puts more emphasis.

“Because the average gobbler shot is a 2 year old bird, the brood survey from last year doesn’t really tell us much about this year’s spring gobbler harvest.  We need to go back to 2014,” Krantz explained. “In 2014, our brood reports were 30 percent higher than in 2013 and mimicked a five year average.  That tells us we should have an average population out there for this spring gobbler season.”

Krantz said it’s likely those hunting in the steep hollows of the West Virginia coalfields however may be running into more jakes than mature gobblers.

“We had a really good hatch in the southern part of the state. It exceeded the five year average by more than 14 percent,” said Krantz. “Those guys down there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t see more jakes running around the woods.”

The season runs for four weeks and although the opening date has changed, hunters still need to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. each day.

►   Luxury Cottages to be Built at Stonewall Resort State Park

A public-private funding venture has resulted in the first of what could be 20 new luxury cottages in a wooded lakeshore development at Stonewall Resort State Park.

The four-bedroom luxury homes are equipped with amenities such as Wi-Fi, washers and dryers, and gas fireplaces.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the cottages will be financed by private investors who will own the units, but agree to make them available for public rental.

Richard Ebright, director of operations for Stonewall lodging and recreation concessionaire Benchmark Resorts and Hotels, says roads and utilities are in place to accommodate 14 new cottages, five of which are expected to be built this year. He says the hope is there’s enough interest to build a total of 20.

The development’s opening ceremony was held earlier this month.

►   Bridgeport children practice reading with therapy dogs

BRIDGEPORT, WV — One recent Saturday at the Bridgeport Public Library, Jacob Watts read a book about dogs called “See Me Dig” to a dog.

Jacob, who attends kindergarten at West Milford Elementary School, read the book to Becky Conrad’s 8-year-old Italian greyhound, Strawberry, who perched on a blanket embroidered with her name and the fruit that inspired her moniker, as well as two tags attached to her collar that indicate she is a therapy dog.

“He reads extremely well for a kindergartener,“ Conrad, of Bridgeport, said to Jacob’s mother, Laurie Watts.

Conrad should know. As a therapy dog handler, Conrad has appointments at various area libraries for events that allow children to read to Strawberry.

It really can help them learn to read and overcome shyness, said Conrad as well as Barbara Higgins, who also partners with a therapy dog, an 8-year-old miniature poodle named Brenda Lee.

Higgins recalled a shy boy who began reading to Brenda Lee at a library event.

“He walked in the door and he and Brenda had an immediate bond,“ she said. “He sat down beside her to read to her and continued to do so for several years.

“Six years later, this past fall, he is now a strapping young man of 14, and he’s a Boy Scout leader and he coaches Cub Scouts.“

The boy, Benjamin Sturm of Shinnston, recalled how it was that reading to dog helped him learn.

“The dogs just sit there,“ he explained. “The dog can’t tell you, ‘That’s not the word.‘ The dog just sits there and gives you extra confidence, like you are talking to someone you like.“

Benjamin’s mother, Stephanie Sturm, noted that Benjamin’s dyslexia made reading difficult for him.

“He was struggling with confidence and not wanting to try,“ Sturm said. “I took him to the reading dogs as a last-ditch effort. Having (Brenda Lee) there, listening, and he was able to pet her. They weren’t judgmental and he got motivated. He said, ‘I have to read to her next month. I’m going to practice for Brenda Lee.‘“

These days, in addition to scouting, he also has helped out Higgins at a Meet the Breeds event at the Bridgeport Farmers Market for the Greater Clarksburg Kennel Club.

“He assisted me and gave out brochures and talked to people about how much it benefited him,“ Higgins added. “He enjoyed his day. He reads at a high level. He would be the first one to tell you that it benefited him tremendously.“

Conrad and Higgins visit area libraries with Strawberry and Brenda Lee on a schedule that includes the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library, 6 to 7 p.m. on the third Monday of the month; the Lowe Public Library in Shinnston, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month; the Philippi Public Library, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. the second Saturday of the month; and the Bridgeport Public Library, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. the first Saturday of the month except for during the summer.

Letting kids read to them at libraries is just one task that therapy dogs can perform. They also can visit patients at hospitals, residents at nursing homes and students preparing for exams at college campuses, helping to ease anxiety by lending a sympathetic ear and perhaps reminding them of a dog they have at home.

They also will be on hand during the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day event at Clarksburg City Park in Nutter Fort from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 30.

“Their job is to — our logo is, ‘Sharing smiles and joy,‘“ said Higgins, who also serves as the coordinator for Mountaineer Therapy Dogs, an informal group with about 50 members who work in the Morgantown, Fairmont and Bridgeport areas.

Brenda Lee is Higgins’ first therapy dog.

“I’ve been around dogs my entire life,“ she said. “This is the first dog I had that I felt had the correct temperament and personality to do therapy work, which pleased me. It was something I always had been interested in doing.“

Conrad has had three therapy dogs, all Italian greyhounds, which are smaller than traditional greyhounds. She just retired a 15-year-old dog.

Both Conrad and Higgins and their dogs are registered through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (, and Bruce Felton, of Morgantown, serves as a tester and observer for the Cheyenne, Wyoming-based group.

In order to have a therapy dog, Felton recommends that an owner first go through regular obedience classes with the pet, but it is not a requirement.

It also is not necessary to take the Mountaineer Kennel Club’s four 90-minute sessions geared toward potential therapy dogs that allow him to check dogs’ temperaments as well as introduce them to objects such as wheelchairs that a therapy dog probably will encounter.

What is required is a filled out application that can be downloaded from the Mountaineer Kennel Club’s website,

After that, the dog and owner meet with Felton, who goes over the rules and regulations with the human and checks the dog’s prospects of going out and offering comfort to the general public.

“I do several little things,“ Felton said. “When I first meet with the person, I see how they are holding the dog on a leash, does the dog try to jump on me, bite my pants leg or sit there quietly?“

Felton also makes sure the dogs do not mind being touched and having their bellies rubbed or paws pulled a bit, and also that the dog and human can walk on the leash well.

“It doesn’t have to heal perfectly, but the idea is to make sure you can walk the dog and make turns without the dog jerking in the opposite direction.“

Dogs also should be healthy, well-groomed and up to date on shots.

If all those things check out, then Felton accompanies the dog and human on three therapy dog visits as an observer.

“If I see no problems and everybody looks good at what they are doing, I can sign off on paperwork and send it off to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and they register them.“

Felton points out that dogs are registered, not certified. The registration essentially gives the owner a $5 million liability in case the dog should bite or trip someone and a lawsuit occurs.

Although Felton currently does not work with a therapy dog, he has in the past.

“I just enjoyed the people — talking to the people,“ he said. “It was rewarding. I went to a nursing home and tapped on someone’s door and said, ‘Excuse me, would you like a visit from me and my dog?‘“

He would see several reactions, he added.

“Some, immediately as they saw the dog, burst out crying and would hug and hold him and say, ‘I miss my dog so much. Thank you for coming in.‘

“At the same time I realized, you were making them happy, making them forget about their pain and loneliness. For 15 minutes, as long as a person is petting a dog, they are not thinking about their problems.“

Conrad remembers visiting a patient at the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center in Clarksburg who had not been communicative with his physical therapist.

“We don’t know what he said,“ Conrad recalled. “He wasn’t communicating. He was making noise. He knew what he was saying. We put the dog on the bed and he petted the dog and I’m sure he told us in his mind that he had a dog. Sometimes they cry. The therapist could not believe the reaction this man had.“

►   WV Symphony narrows down conductor search, 6 finalists announced

CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra announced its 2016-2017 season along with six conductor finalists Friday.

The search committee has been interviewing candidates from around the world to replace current Maestro Grant Cooper who announced his retirement last year. There were 167 applicants.

“We narrowed it down to the top and best six, so we’re looking forward to the community’s input,” said Shiva Shafii, marketing manager for the WVSO.

Each candidate will be conducting one of the symphonic concerts during the upcoming season which runs from September 2016 through May 2017.

“It’s kind of like a live audition for the entire community,” Shafii said. “They’ll be here for the entire week spending the week in West Virginia, going out into the communities, going the schools, working with the youth orchestra and the strings programs in the schools.”

The candidates and concert dates at the Clay Center are as follows:

September 17, 2016 – Kayko Dan, music director of the Chattanooga Symphony

October 05, 2016 – Keitaro Harada, associate conductor of the Cinnicinati Symphony

November 12, 2016 – Stilian Kirov, assistant conductor of the Seattle Symphony

Mar. 04, 2017 – Dan Meyer, music director of the Erie Philharmonic

Apr. 08, 2017 – Lawrence Loh, resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony

May 06, 2017 – Kevin Rhodes, music director of the Springfiled Symphony Orchestra

This season will include worldwide talent, Shafii said. All show times will start at 7:30 p.m.

The ZMM Architects and Engineers Pops Series will be conducted by Meastro Grant Cooper. Those concerts include:

“The Wizard of Oz Live” – the full length film accompanied by live orchestra
October 08, 2016 – Charleston

“Home for the Holidays”
December 01, 2016 – Lewisburg
December 03, 2016 – Charleston
December 04, 2016 – Parkersburg
December 05, 2016 – Morgantown

“Sgt. Pepper” – a journey through the 1960s featuring Beatles’ hits
Mar. 18, 2017 – Charleston
Mar. 19, 2017 – Parkersburg

“Country Roads” – a tribute to country hits
May 13, 2017 – Charleston

The committee will announce the new conductor in Summer 2017.

►   Family Court judges, staff enter legal fight on payday issue

CHARLESTON, WV — Two other groups representing state workers plan to file legal action with the state Supreme Court over the payday conversion controversy.

The Family Court Judges Association and the Family Court Staff Association filed action Friday afternoon. As previously reported by MetroNews, the West Virginia Association of Probation Officers filed a writ of mandamus with the High Court Tuesday.

The groups are trying to stop the planned conversion of state paydays from the current twice-a-month to every two weeks. The change, overseen by the state Auditor’s Office, is currently scheduled to take place in May.

State Auditor Glen Gainer and others have been working with the new OASIS computer system to make the change but it’s been met with lots of controversy

Webster-Pocahontas County Family Court Judge Jeff Hall told MetroNews Friday he’s not an opponent of going to bi-weekly pay he just doesn’t think it should begin in May. The Family Court Judges and the Family Court Staff associations believe it should begin in July or next January so employees won’t be shorted approximately 1.4 percent of their 2016 salaries.

“We don’t want it to happen at a time when it will mathematically cause a pay shortage in this conversion year,” Judge Hall said.

Delaying the switch until July would give state workers 13 remaining paydays, while beginning in May leaves four months for bi-monthly pay and eight months with bi-weekly pay. That scenario would leave Family Court judges short about $1,200 in this year’s pay and their staffs approximately $400 short this year, Hall said.

“So it would be real simple if you just started this in July, rather than in May, we’ll get our full salaries with no pay adjustments. There probably wouldn’t even be a writ filed,” Hall said.

There has been some conversations that elected officials would have an adjustment in their pay to make up the difference but other workers would have to wait until their time ended with the state to get the missed money. Hall said there’s too much uncertainty.

“I don’t think anyone should have to wait until they separate (from employment) until that get paid (the difference created in the conversion year),” he said.

The probation officers legal action is styled a little differently calling on the Court to stop the pay change because it conflicts with existing state along with the transition year pay shortage concern.

Gainer has been ordered by the Court to file an answer in the probation officers case by April 20.

Did You Know?

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