West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Corridor H Authority Encouraged by Bids

ELKINS, WV - The Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Highway Authority was encouraged by the bids that were received by the West Virginia Department of Highways. The bids are for the 7.5 mile stretch of highway, from Kerens to the 219 Connector.

“We are pleased with the bids that came in for the next section of Corridor H to be constructed in Randolph and Tucker Counties,” said Robbie Morris, chairman. “While the bids appear to have come in above the engineering estimates, I am hopeful they are close enough to permit the Department of Highways to award the contract.”

The Kerens to Parsons Section of Corridor H is approximately 15.5 miles. The Department of Highways is planning on completing this section in three segments, with the first segment being 7.5 miles, the second segment being approximately 3.4 miles, and the third segment being approximately 4.6 miles.

Currently the Kerens to Parsons section is estimated to be completed in the first quarter of 2019. This 7.5 mile segment is the first Corridor H project to use the Public-Private Partnership (P3) financing method.

“Earlier this year Governor Tomblin announced that he had directed the Division of Highways to use P3 for this segment of Corridor H. The Corridor H Authority has been encouraging Governor Tomblin and Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox to use P3 as a means of speeding up the construction schedule.” Morris said.

“We are hopeful the governor will authorize additional P3 contracts in the very near future so that Corridor H can be completed by 2020, or as soon thereafter as possible.” Morris explained “Two years ago, the Corridor H Authority commissioned an economic impact study that found our region will lose a minimum of $1.25 billion if we do not complete Corridor H by 2020, instead of the currently expected 2036 to 2042 completion date. We need to get Corridor H completed as soon as possible so West Virginia businesses and citizens can begin to reap the benefits,” Morris said.

DEP Presents Clean Community, Clean County Awards

CHARLESTON, WV – Seven West Virginia communities and two counties that went above and beyond in their cleanup and beautification efforts have been recognized by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan (REAP) for environmental stewardship in 2015.

The DEP’s Make It Shine Program has awarded Clean Community Awards to:

      • Wellsburg and Beech Bottom in Brooke County
      • Fayetteville in Fayette County
      • New Cumberland and Chester in Hancock County
      • Wardensville in Hardy County
      • Bluefield in Mercer County

Each community will receive two road signs designating that municipality as a clean community. As the grand prize winner, Fayetteville will also receive $500 to apply toward additional cleanup and beautification projects.

Clean Community Awards are presented annually. Each application is judged in several categories – including cleanup, recycling, youth participation and beautification efforts.

The DEP has also recognized Berkeley and Braxton counties with 2015 Clean County Awards. Berkeley County was the grand prize winner, which means the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority will receive $2,000 to put toward cleanups and other projects. As runner-up, the Braxton County Solid Waste Authority will receive $1,000 for such projects.

Clean County Awards are presented annually to county solid waste authorities that promote environmental stewardship through cleanups, outreach and law enforcement.

For more information about the Clean Community and Clean County awards, contact Terry Carrington at 1.800.322.5530 or by email at

WV Ranks among Best for Providing Healthcare Insurance for Children

In a report released October 27, 2015, by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families, West Virginia is recognized as a leader in providing healthcare coverage for children. Ninety-seven percent of the state’s 386,718 children are covered by private insurance, West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (WVCHIP) or Medicaid.

“Our state’s future lies in the hands of our most precious and vulnerable resource, our children,” said DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling. “I am incredibly proud that one of the legacies of this administration is assuring nearly every child in West Virginia has the medical care he or she needs to grow up to be happy, healthy and successful with DHHR’s WVCHIP and Medicaid programs.”

The top five states with the lowest rate of uninsured children are Massachusetts (1.5%), the District of Columbia (2.1%), Vermont (2.2%), West Virginia (3.0%) and Hawaii (3.1%).  West Virginia is also ranked amongst the top five states with the sharpest declines in the rate of uninsured children, reducing the number of uninsured children by 43.7% from 2013 to 2014.

“While West Virginia faces many health challenges, we can feel very good that we have this foundation on which to build a healthy future for our children,” said WVCHIP Director Sharon Carte. “This is a great day for West Virginia.”

At least four students involved in Lincoln High threat; three charged

CLARKSBURG, WV — Law enforcement filed two charges apiece against three students in connection to the threat made against Lincoln High School on Wednesday, and the Harrison County Board of Education has suspended four students total according to the Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office and Ken Weinke with the Harrison County Board of Education.

“Given the fact that they are juveniles, I can’t get into a lot of details regarding the investigation because it is sensitive and confidential,” Harrison County Rachel Romano said during a joint press conference Friday afternoon with representatives from law enforcement spanning all across Harrison County. “I do want everyone to know though that they have been apprehended, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law requires in this circumstance.”

After law enforcement responded to the internet threat Wednesday morning, it was eventually discovered after several hours of lock down at LHS that the threat was not credible.

“Everybody was at the high school within a matter of moments,” Romano said. “Procedure and protocol was followed. And within a matter of hours, it was determined that there was no actual threat, and students were released and were sent home.”

Although the threat turned out not to be credible, Romano said the county would still take it sincerely.

“We take things like this very seriously,” Romano said. “It turns out that this was just a rather sick joke. There was never an actual threat. There was never a weapon on the property. It was maybe some kids thinking it wasn’t going to go as far as it did.”

Despite rumors to the contrary, Romano said this was not an instance of or response to bullying. Weinke said he had heard an array of untrue rumors following the incident.

“There’s a lot of things that came out afterwards that were untrue, not correct,” Kein Weinke said. “But we’re not going to chase the tail on something like that.”

The nature of the threat, the website used, and the charges filed were not released during the press conference.

Police investigate suspicious Halloween candy

SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV — Three girls received more than they thought while trick-or-treating in South Charleston Thursday night.  Police say the girls found shards of glass in candy they were given while going door-to-door in the Armour View subdivision.

“They don’t have a specific house or anything like that,” said Detective Jonathan Halstead of the South Charleston Police Department. “Just in the Armour View subdivision.”

The subdivision includes hundreds of homes which saw a high volume of trick or treaters Thursday night.  The three girls who found the suspicious candy were actually in a group of approximately seven all of them were middle school age.

“One girl didn’t have a bag and was using her jacket, she put her hand in her pocket and found about five pieces of glass in with her candy,” said Halstead. “The second teen found a piece of candy with glass and hair throughout and the third girl located another one in a piece of candy in her candy bag when she got home.”

Police are recommending parents who’s children went trick or treating in the subdivision thoroughly examine their child’s treat bucket again.  The candy appeared to be commercially produced, but had been removed from its packaging.

Police are asking anyone who finds more suspicious candy to contact the South Charleston Police Department.

Ritchie County, WV woman ordered to pay nearly $134,000 in restitution for workers’ comp fraud

A Ritchie County, WV woman must pay nearly $134,000 in restitution for health care fraud.

U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II said Sherri J. Slaven, 51, of Ellenboro, WV, also must complete five years’ probation, the first eight months on home detention, for defrauding the Mountain State’s workers’ compensation fund by repeatedly submitting claims for health services she never performed. She received in excess of $100,000 in reimbursements because of the fraudulent billings, he said.

Slaven pleaded guilty in July to one count of health care fraud.

The West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commission Office of Inspector General Fraud Investigations Unit led the inquiry. 

Prosecutor Suspended After Pulling Gun on Fake Spiders

An assistant prosecutor in West Virginia has been suspended after pulling a gun and threatening to shoot fake spiders scattered around the office as Halloween decorations.

Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett tells media outlets that Chris White informed other employees that he is “deathly afraid of spiders” before threatening to shoot. Bennett says he was out of the office at the time but was told about the incident by shaken employees.

He says White assured him the gun wasn’t loaded. Bennett suspended White on Wednesday, several weeks after the incident, because employees were still upset.

The spider decorations have been removed, and Bennett has barred anyone other than the agency’s investigator from carrying guns in the office.

Neither the media outlets nor The Associated Press could reach White for comment.

Delta Chi Chapter at Marshall Suspended After Hazing Probe

A Marshall University fraternity has been suspended after investigations into alleged hazing.

The Herald-Dispatch reports that The Delta Chi Fraternity Inc. said Thursday that the Marshall chapter’s charter has been suspended. The university also has suspended the chapter.

The actions were taken after the national fraternity and the university both investigated an anonymous tip of a hazing incident that took place at the fraternity’s house on September 20. Neither organization would disclose details of the incident.

Carla Lapelle, interim dean of student affairs, said no students were injured in the incident and that alcohol was not involved. She said the chapter is appealing the suspension.

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G-Eye™: 1st Annual Kruiz in Glenville

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Exploding E-Cig Severely Injures Florida Man

There’s got to be a less dramatic way to quit smoking. WPTV reports a Florida man is in the hospital after his e-cigarette exploded in his face Monday, leaving him with a badly burned face and neck. Ema Richardson found her 21-year-old brother Evan Spahlinger on the floor and covered in soot after hearing an explosion and smelling smoke, according to CBS Miami. “I found my brother not breathing with his whole face burned and his neck burned and trying to throw up a little or maybe he was gasping for air,” Richardson says. Spahlinger was rushed to the hospital and put into a medically induced coma.

Richardson tells CBS that Spahlinger has internal and external burns and damage to his lungs. She says the mouthpiece from his e-cigarette may have gone down his throat and exploded a second time. According to WPTV, Spahlinger underwent cosmetic surgery Tuesday. Before he was taken to the hospital, Richardson tells CBS her brother managed to tell her he was done with e-cigarettes forever. Officials believe the explosion was caused by the e-cigarette’s lithium battery, the culprit blamed in other e-cigarette explosions around the country.

Displaced Bikini Islanders Seek Another New Start in U.S.

Their first home was destroyed by nuclear testing. Their new home is being threatened by climate change. Now the former residents of Bikini Atoll want to use their million-dollar government trust fund to resettle in the US, USA Today reports. More than 150 residents of Bikini Atoll were moved 500 miles away to Kili and Ejit in the Marshall Islands in 1948 so the US could conduct nearly two-dozen atomic tests. They tried to move back in 1969 but had to be relocated again because of radiation. According to the BBC, the US set up a resettlement trust fund to help the displaced Bikini islanders rebuild their lives. However, that fund offers little protection from the life-threatening rising seas brought on by climate change.

The BBC reports there was widespread flooding on Kili in 2011 and 2015, and encroaching salt water is killing crops and ruining fresh water supplies. Both Kili and Ejit were covered by waves at least five times in the past four years, according to USA Today. The islanders, who are already allowed to live and work in the US, passed a resolution in August asking the US government to let them take their resettlement trust fund—which has a balance of around $69 million—with them to the US, the BBC reports. The Department of Interior is supporting the islanders and taking their proposal to congress. “This is an appropriate course of action for the United States to take regarding the welfare and livelihood of the Bikinian people, given the deteriorating conditions on Kili and Ejit,“ the assistant secretary of the Interior says in a statement.

Jersey’s Haunted Highway Can Be a Spooky Trip

Need a bone-chilling story of a haunted highway to prepare you for Halloween? Just want to listen to someone slag off Los Angeles and gently roast New Jersey? Either way, Atlas Obscura has you covered with a very personal investigation into the Garden State’s spooky Clinton Road. Legend has it cannibals, satanists, ghost boys, ghost trucks, mysterious red eyes, and unnatural snakes haunt the 10-mile stretch of highway. That’s why the article’s author, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, was so disappointed to find a normal highway lined with trees, houses, and a accounting firm only a few miles from a Target and Dairy Queen.

Then Brodesser-Akner met a ghost hunter who knew something about her she couldn’t possibly know and who agreed to give her a tour of Clinton Road. And even if you don’t believe in the paranormal, there’s plenty about the infamous road to make your hair stand on end: spotty cellphone coverage, the longest traffic light in the US, a restaurant that doesn’t bother to ask if Pepsi is OK instead of Coke. Shudder. For a fascinating glimpse at urban legends and the personality of New Jersey, read the full story here.

Towing Company Charges Man $48K to Remove Jeep From Mud

“I thought they made a mistake,“ Massachusetts resident Joel Ramer tells WFXT-TV about the moments after he received a $48,000 towing bill. Ramer was off-roading with his girlfriend when his Jeep got stuck in a mud pit. Assured Collision responded to tow Ramer’s vehicle, and spent the next 12 hours removing it from the mud. But Ramer has yet to get his Jeep back, as he can’t afford the huge bill. The owner of Assured Collision explains the $48,000 price tag by telling WFXT the Jeep was in a swamp near power lines, creating dangerous conditions and a hazmat situation for his seven-person team.

But the Statewide Towing Association isn’t buying it. WFXT reports the association says Ramer’s bill is “significantly in excess of the industry standard.“ He was charged $1,250 an hour for an on-scene supervisor while the state average is between $175 and $325 per hour. Ramer was also charged $5,000 for dangerous condition liability insurance, something the association states it’s never even heard of. It’s unclear if Ramer even wants his Jeep back, as he says it was totaled following its run-in with the mud pit. All in all, Ramer probably should have just stayed home that day: According to WFXT, he was also arrested on suspicion of trespassing and disturbing the peace for off-roading on private property.

Runaway Blimp Causes Power Outages in Pennsylvania

An unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its moorings in Maryland and floated over Pennsylvania for hours Wednesday with two US fighter jets on its tail, triggering blackouts across the countryside as it dragged its cable across power lines. The bulbous, 240-foot helium-filled blimp finally came down near Muncy, a small town about 80 miles north of Harrisburg. The North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado said the blimp detached from its station at the military’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland at about 12:20pm and drifted northward, climbing to about 16,000 feet.

The F-16s were scrambled from a National Guard base at Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to NORAD. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter did not say what the two fighter jets might be asked to do or whether he considered it a threat to aviation. Witnesses reported seeing the blimp drifting in a sparsely populated area. Its tether was snapping power lines. The local electric utility, PPL, reported about 20,000 customers without power in the area, and Bloomsburg University canceled classes because of the outage. It was not immediately clear how the blimp came loose.

Meet the Lawyers Who Justified Killing Osama bin Laden

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a fascinating story on the four government lawyers who secretly cleared the way for the 2011 raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. It’s one of the few stories behind the raid that hasn’t been told before and relies on largely anonymous interviews with former and current officials. According to the Times, the lawyers—Stephen Preston, Mary DeRosa, James Crawford, and Jeh Johnson—were responsible for devising legal justifications for each step and potential outcome of the raid, especially if—in their words—it went “terribly badly.“

Using highly secure laptops and hand-delivered notes to avoid leaks, the lawyers were able to come up with legal justifications for everything from not notifying Pakistan about the raid to going in with the intent to kill bin Laden, the Times reports. They also made sure they’d be able to legally defend the decision to bury bin Laden at sea, to not tell Congress about the raid, to violate international law, and to—if necessary—cause the death of a large number of innocent civilians. They wrote their defenses in five secret memos that they could use to prove the administration wasn’t coming up with legal justifications after the fact. Despite being instrumental to the raid—and, as the Times reports, essentially ensuring bin Laden would be killed and not captured—none of the lawyers’ involvement has ever been publicized. Read the full story here.

$80B Stealth Bomber Project Takes Flight

One of the most expensive projects in the Pentagon’s history has been awarded to Northrop Grumman. The company won the bid to build the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) at a cost that could top $80 billion, reports the Los Angeles Times. Northrop will get more than $20 billion to develop the bomber—which will replace aging B-1s and B-52s—plus $564 million per plane with 80 to 100 currently planned, reports Popular Mechanics. However, the cost of the project could spike if Northrop’s record is any indication: The Pentagon initially planned for 132 Northrop-built B-2s in the 1980s, but ended up with 21 when costs skyrocketed to $2 billion per unit. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter says the LRS-B will be the “backbone” of the Air Force with “initial operational capability” in 2025. It should be ready to fly by 2040.

Because there’s no way to know what might be necessary in a bomber in 2040, the LRS-B will be “adaptable,“ says the Air Force’s chief of staff. Military officials say it will be able to fly nuclear weapons and perhaps operate as a drone. Northrop earlier said the project could create 1,400 new jobs in Palmdale, Calif.—where Northrop also built the B-2—and the city’s mayor says “we’re very excited.“ Northrop’s chairman seemed to expect the Pentagon’s decision, telling the Times, “We’re ready to get to work.“ But some industry experts were a bit shocked that the company beat out a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team, which had impressive political connections and funding. That team says it’s talking with the Air Force “before determining our next steps,“ but analysts expect it to challenge the decision.

Salem Witch: This Warlock Is Harassing Me

A woman who calls herself a witch priestess is taking the self-proclaimed “world’s best-known warlock” to court over accusations of harassment. Lori Sforza, who runs a witchcraft shop and leads a pagan church in Salem, Mass., filed for court-ordered protection against harassment from Christian Day, whom she accuses of harassing her online and over the phone for three years. The two will meet in court on Wednesday, when a judge in Salem District Court is to decide whether Sforza’s allegations amount to harassment and if she needs court protection. Day owns occult shops in Salem and New Orleans, per his website. The 75-year-old Sforza accuses Day, 45, of repeatedly calling her late at night from a private number and swearing at her, says her attorney, Fiore Porreca.

“She’s being abused, intimidated, and harassed,“ Porreca said; Sforza also alleges Day made malicious posts about her on social media. Porreca said the harassment has hurt his client’s business. On her website, Sforza calls herself a psychic and clairvoyant. She claims to be a descendant of Italian witches who healed victims of the bubonic plague. She is also the founder of Our Lord and Lady Of The Trinacrian Rose. Day, for his part, created Salem’s Festival of the Dead in 2003; it has expanded to include a psychic and witchcraft fair and a seance. Sforza and Day were once business associates in Salem, Porreca said. They also made headlines in 2011 when they cast spells together to try to heal actor Charlie Sheen, who had called himself a “Vatican assassin warlock.“

Owner Finds Car Parked on Her Roof

When Joyce Kingsley heard “kaboom” in her Michigan home, she immediately thought of extreme weather. It was something much stranger. The 83-year-old discovered that a Ford Mustang was parked on the roof of her home, after the driver had a medical problem Monday and lost control on Interstate 69 in Shiawassee County. Kingsley’s home about 20 miles northeast of Lansing is built next to a hill, and the roof is nearly level with the ground, reports the Argus-Press of Owosso. “I was just watching TV inside. I had it up pretty loud—but this was much louder,“ Kingsley says. Police say the Mustang went through bushes, trees, and a fence before stopping on the roof. The driver was treated for low blood sugar but wasn’t hurt.

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U.S. escalates involvement in Syria amid talks on Assad future

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States escalated its fight against the Islamic State in Syria on Friday, pledging the first open deployment of military boots on the ground, even as U.S., Russian and other diplomats pressed a new peace effort that America hopes will hasten the departure of Bashar Assad.

Up to 50 special operations troops will be sent to assist Kurdish and Arab forces in northern Syria, American officials said. The move marks a significant departure for President Barack Obama, who for years has resisted putting ground forces in Syria even as he has gradually intensified the U.S. military response to what counterterrorism officials worry is a growing Islamic State threat in Syria and Iraq.

The troop announcement came as diplomats in Vienna representing 17 countries and the European Union agreed to launch a broad new peace attempt to gradually end Syria’s long civil war — a declaration that avoided any determination on when President Assad might leave. It is not clear how many rebel groups would agree to a plan that doesn’t result in Assad’s immediate departure.

Any cease-fire agreement that may come as a result of the peace effort would not include the Islamic State, which controls large parts of northern Syria and has its capital there.

But the participation by Russia and Iran in the attempt could mark a new and promising phase in the diplomacy since those countries have staunchly backed Assad.

The White House has long said that Assad’s ouster is essential to its ultimate goal of defeating the Islamic State because the Syrian president’s brutal tactics against Sunni rebels have drawn Sunni radicals from all over the world into the militant group’s ranks.

The Syrian civil war has killed more than 250,000 people and uprooted more than 11 million, sparking a refugee crisis throughout Europe.

Despite killing as many as 12,000 militants, the U.S. bombing campaign has not significantly weakened the Islamic State’s capacity to hold territory, and the group’s ranks have been replenished by foreign fighters and others.

Military experts say ground troops are essential for the fight. A U.S. program to train Syrians was abandoned as a failure, and the new deployment essentially would replace that program.

Speaking to reporters flying with him on an overseas trip, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this would probably not be the last significant adjustment to the anti-IS military campaign in Syria and Iraq.

“We are going to continue to innovate, to build up what works,“ he said.

Friday’s developments came as missiles slammed into a crowded suburb of the Syrian capital. The attack killed at least 40 people, activists said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees group said government forces fired more than 11 missiles at a market in the suburb of Douma.

In Washington, officials said the new U.S. forces will work from headquarters locations and won’t move to the front lines or be used to call in airstrikes. However, the U.S. has conducted special operations raids into Syria before now and will continue to do more unilateral raids. It helped Iraqi forces rescue hostages last week, and Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed, the first U.S. combat death in that country since 2011.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new troops will not be on a “combat mission.“

“There’s no denying the serious risk they will be facing,“ Earnest said, but their mission will “not be to lead the charge to take the hill.“

Russia and Syria are conducting airstrikes in the country, but Earnest said it was unlikely the U.S. troops would be at risk because Russia has not bombed in the area where they will be.

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers greeted the troop announcement with dismay.

It “marks a major shift in U.S. policy — a shift that is occurring without congressional debate (and) is unlikely to succeed in achieving our objective of defeating IS,“ said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

On the other hand, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the decision was “another insufficient step in the Obama administration’s policy of gradual escalation.“

One of the groups the U.S. troops will be working with is a Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which could pose a political problem for the United States.

The YPG was accused of war crimes in a recent report by Amnesty International, which documented allegations that the group forcibly displaced Arabs and Turkmen and burned down villages perceived as cooperating with its opponents. The group has denied the allegations and the State Department says it is looking into them.

Carter declined to be specific about where the U.S. troops will operate in northern Syria but said they will be in territory controlled by Syrian Kurds.

“However, the Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Arab coalition essentially work together to counter ISIL,“ he said.

In Vienna on Friday, the U.S., Russia and more than a dozen other nations directed the U.N. to start a new diplomatic process between Syria’s government and opposition groups with the goal of reaching a nationwide cease-fire and political transition — but without an explicit demand for Assad to quickly leave power.

American officials say the talks marked a significant new phase, one they hope is an endgame for Assad’s reign.

At a joint news conference with Russia’s top diplomat and the U.N. envoy to Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the countries — including fierce regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — each pledged to support an independent and secular Syria, to maintain the country’s institutions, to protect the rights of all Syrians and to strive to defeat the Islamic State.

Kerry said the U.N.-led process should lead to a new constitution for Syria and internationally supervised elections, as well as an end to violence between Assad’s military and Sunni rebel groups so the world community can focus on the fight against the Islamic State.

But no agreement was reached on Assad.

“I did not say that Assad has to go or that Assad has to say,“ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said through an interpreter.

Russian Passenger Jet Crashes in Egypt

A Russian aircraft carrying more than 220 people crashed Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula more than 20 minutes after takeoff from a Red Sea resort popular with Russian tourists, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation says. It it not immediately known whether there are any survivors among the 217 passengers and seven crew members but an Egyptian government spokesman says 50 ambulances were headed to the crash site to offer medical care if needed. The chairman of the state company that runs Egypt’s civilian airports says all passengers and crew were Russian citizens.

According to the ministry, Egyptian military search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the passenger jet in the Hassana area south of the city of el-Arish, an area in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces are fighting a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency led by a local ISIS affiliate. Militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter-jets. There have been persistent media reports that they have acquired Russian shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles, but these types of missiles can only be effective against low-flying aircraft or helicopters.

West Virginia NAEP Scores Show Positive Improvement in Reading

The Free Press WV

Charleston, WV - West Virginia students who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2015 showed improvement in the area of reading according to data released today by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

West Virginia was the only state in the country to see an increase in eighth grade reading with the average scale score increasing from 257 in 2013 to 260 in 2015. West Virginia now ranks 42nd in the country for eighth grade reading scores. In addition, West Virginia’s rank in fourth grade reading increased from 46th in 2013 to 40th in 2015 when considering those students who scored at or above the proficiency level.

NAEP, also referred to as The Nation’s Report Card, tests a representative sample of students statewide by distributing assessment questions in math and ELA content areas among groups of test takers who take different versions of the test. In West Virginia, approximately 2,300 fourth graders and 2,100 eighth graders were tested between January and March 2015. The sampling represents 11 percent of all fourth graders and 10 percent of all eighth graders. The assessment is administered every other year.

“I applaud our reading score increases and believe our students are moving in the right direction,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano. “Because our standards are now fully cemented and continue to be delivered with high quality by our dedicated teachers, I believe we will have a much clearer gauge of how students are performing on future assessments.”

Scores in math show there is still work to be done. The percent of students at or above the proficiency level in math decreased from 35 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2015 for fourth graders. However, West Virginia’s national ranking remained consistent at 43rd. Similarly, percentages of students in eighth grade who scored at or above the proficiency level decreased from 24 percent in 2013 to 21 percent in 2015. West Virginia’s decline was consistent with national results as scores decreased by two percentage points in both fourth and eighth grade for those students at or above the proficiency level. The national decline in math scores was the first decline since the assessment was first administered in 1990.

“I want to use these results as a guide for the areas where our students need to improve,” Martirano said. “Today’s release confirms what we already know – there is still work to be done to ensure our young people graduate high school prepared for college and the 21st century world of work. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to providing high levels of rigor and ultimately increasing student achievement.”

The Nation’s Report card is one measure of how are students are performing in mathematics and ELA in the fourth and eighth grades. Results provide useful information on how students are performing within and across states. The assessment serves as a common measure of student achievement nationally.

Complete NAEP information can be found by visiting:

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WV Drivers Advised To Take Extra Caution To Avoid Deer Collisions During The Fall Months

The Free Press WV

ELKINS, WV - The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) urges motorists to be more cautious while driving this time of year, as deer/vehicular collisions increase during late October and November.

“West Virginia is blessed with an abundance of wildlife, including a healthy white-tailed deer population,” said Gary Foster, supervisor of Game Management for the DNR Wildlife Resources Section. “Although deer are found throughout the state, their population densities vary considerably from one region to another. West Virginia’s rural nature and mountainous terrain also contribute to collisions between deer and vehicles, as the highest quality deer habitat is often associated with the valleys and bottomlands. These same areas support the majority of the state’s public roads.”

Deer/vehicular collisions increase each fall for a couple of reasons.

“October and November coincide with the ‘rut’ or peak of the breeding season for deer,” Foster said. “During this period, deer movements and activities increase significantly, making deer more vulnerable to collisions with vehicles. On average, 40 percent of deer collisions in West Virginia occur during the three-month period from October through December.

“In addition, many hunters take to the woods each fall, stirring up deer and increasing the chances of deer/vehicle collisions,” Foster said.

The DNR suggests motorists be extra careful during this time of the year and recommends the following driving tips:

•  Be aware of your surroundings and what may be in your peripheral vision. If you see deer in the vicinity, reduce your speed and honk your horn using short blasts.

•  Drive with your headlights on and use high beams when possible.

•  Reduce your speed, especially during early morning and late evening hours when deer movements typically increase.

•  Do not swerve and leave your lane to avoid a deer collision. If you encounter a deer, press your brakes firmly and attempt to stop.

•  Drive defensively.

Test Scores Have Been An Embarrassment to the Obama and Bush Administrations

The Free Press WV

Sometimes events happen that seem to be disconnected, but after a few days or weeks, the pattern emerges. Consider this: On October 2, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he was resigning and planned to return to Chicago. Former New York Commissioner of Education John King, who is a clone of Duncan in terms of his belief in testing and charter schools, was designated to take Duncan’s place. On October 23, the Obama administration held a surprise news conference to declare that testing was out of control and should be reduced to not more than 2 percent of classroom time. Actually, that wasn’t a true reduction, because 2 percent translates into between 18-24 hours of testing, which is a staggering amount of annual testing for children in grades 3-8 and not different from the status quo in most states.

Disconnected events?

Not at all. Here comes the pattern-maker: the federal tests called the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its every-other-year report card in reading and math, and the results were dismal. There would be many excuses offered, many rationales, but the bottom line: the NAEP scores are an embarrassment to the Obama administration (and the George W. Bush administration that preceded it).

For nearly 15 years, Presidents Bush and Obama and the Congress have bet billions of dollars—both federal and state– on a strategy of testing, accountability, and choice. They believed that if every student was tested in reading and mathematics every year from grades 3 to 8, test scores would go up and up. In those schools where test scores did not go up, the principals and teachers would be fired and replaced. Where scores didn’t go up for five years in a row, the schools would be closed. Thousands of educators were fired, and thousands of public schools were closed, based on the theory that sticks and carrots, rewards and punishments, would improve education.

But the 2015 NAEP scores released today by the National Assessment Governing Board (a federal agency) showed that Arne Duncan’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program had flopped. It also showed that George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind was as phony as the “Texas education miracle” of 2000, which Bush touted as proof of his education credentials.

NAEP is an audit test. It is given every other year to samples of students in every state and in about 20 urban districts. No one can prepare for it, and no one gets a grade. NAEP measures the rise or fall of average scores for states in fourth grade and eighth grade in reading and math and reports them by race, gender, disability status, English language ability, economic status, and a variety of other measures.

The 2015 NAEP scores showed no gains nationally in either grade in either subject. In mathematics, scores declined in both grades, compared to 2013. In reading, scores were flat in grade 4 and lower in grade 8. Usually the Secretary of Education presides at a press conference where he points with pride to increases in certain grades or in certain states. Two years ago, Arne Duncan boasted about the gains made in Tennessee, which had won $500 million in Duncan’s Race to the Top competition. This year, Duncan had nothing to boast about.

In his Race to the Top program, Duncan made testing the primary purpose of education. Scores had to go up every year, because the entire nation was “racing to the top.” Only 12 states won a share of the $4.35 billion that Duncan was given by Congress: Tennessee and Delaware were first to win, in 2010. The next round, the following states won multi-millions of federal dollars to double down on testing: Maryland, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

Tennessee, Duncan’s showcase state in 2013, made no gains in reading or mathematics, neither in fourth grade or eighth grade. The black-white test score gap was as large in 2015 as it had been in 1998, before either NCLB or the Race to the Top.

The results in mathematics were bleak across the nation, in both grades 4 and 8. The declines nationally were only 1 or 2 points, but they were significant in a national assessment on the scale of NAEP.

In fourth-grade mathematics, the only jurisdictions to report gains were the District of Columbia, Mississippi, and the Department of Defense schools. Sixteen states had significant declines in their math scores, and thirty-three were flat in relation to 2013 scores. The scores in Tennessee (the $500 million winner) were flat.

In eighth grade, the lack of progress in mathematics was universal. Twenty-two states had significantly lower scores than in 2013, while 30 states or jurisdictions had flat scores. Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Florida (a Race to the Top winner), were the biggest losers, by dropping six points. Among the states that declined by four points were Race to the Top winners Ohio, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. Maryland, Hawaii, New York, and the District of Columbia lost two points. The scores in Tennessee were flat.

The District of Columbia made gains in fourth grade reading and mathematics, but not in eighth grade. It continues to have the largest score gap—56 points–between white and black students of any urban district in the nation. That is more than double the average of the other 20 urban districts. The state with the biggest achievement gap between black and white students is Wisconsin; it is also the state where black students have the lowest scores, lower even than their peers in states like Mississippi and South Carolina. Wisconsin has invested heavily in vouchers and charter schools, which Governor Scott Walker intends to increase.

The best single word to describe NAEP 2015 is stagnation. Contrary to President George W. Bush’s law, many children have been left behind by the strategy of test-and-punish. Contrary to the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, the mindless reliance on standardized testing has not brought us closer to some mythical “Top.”

No wonder Arne Duncan is leaving Washington. There is nothing to boast about, and the next set of NAEP results won’t be published until 2017. The program that he claimed would transform American education has not raised test scores, but has demoralized educators and created teacher shortages. Disgusted with the testing regime, experienced teachers leave and enrollments in teacher education programs fall. One can only dream about what the Obama administration might have accomplished had it spent that $5 billion in discretionary dollars to encourage states and districts to develop and implement realistic plans for desegregation their schools, or had they invested the same amount of money in the arts.

The past dozen or so years have been a time when “reformers” like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and Bill Gates proudly claimed that they were disrupting school systems and destroying the status quo. Now the “reformers” have become the status quo, and we have learned that disruption is not good for children or education.

Time is running out for this administration, and it is not likely that there will be any meaningful change of course in education policy. One can only hope that the next administration learns important lessons from the squandered resources and failure of NCLB and Race to the Top.

~~  Diane Ravitch ~~

Record Health Coverage Rate for West Virginia Children

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CHARLESTON, WV – More children are getting health care coverage in West Virginia and nationally than ever before, according to a new study from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The study found just 6 percent of U.S. children going without health care coverage. And the rate in West Virginia is half that.

Joan Alker, the center’s executive director, says the state has worked hard to get here.

“Just 3 percent uninsured kids in West Virginia,” she points out. “They did some hard work to identify kids that were already receiving SNAP benefits and making sure that they were also receiving health coverage.“

Alker says Georgetown found the children most likely to go without insurance live in rural areas – and children of the working poor are actually more likely to go without coverage than the very poorest.

The Affordable Care Act was intended in part to reach these populations. And Alker says the states that expanded Medicaid, including West Virginia, had the fastest growth in coverage.

Expanding Medicaid did not extend coverage to more children, but it did cover a lot of parents.

According to Renate Pore, director of health policy for the consumer group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the process of reaching out to those adults and bringing them into the system also brought in a lot of their children – something called the welcome mat effect.

“We’ve had several hundred people out in communities enrolling adults,” Pore relates. “And so even people who might have been eligible before but didn’t know about it, got to know about it and enrolled, and enrolled their children.“

More than 40 percent of West Virginia’s uninsured children gained coverage between 2013 and 2014 –the third fastest growth in the country. The state now ranks near the top for children with health insurance.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

$3.4 Million in Savings by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

The Free Press WV

A new contract designed to cut down on non-emergency transportation costs for Medicaid patients is paying big dividends for the State of West Virginia, saving $1.9 million in its first year. The Bureau also estimates that it saved $1.5 million this year by securing a non-emergency medical transportation broker, bringing the total savings to the state to more than $3.4 million.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau of Medical Services received the $1.9 million rebate from Medical Transportation Management (MTM) at the end of September 2015.  On October 01, 2014, DHHR contracted the St. Louis-based company to coordinate non-emergency medical transport services such as doctor’s appointments, therapy visits and dialysis treatments for state residents under Medicaid. DHHR wanted to reduce abuse and waste in the system and improve quality of service.

“Using a broker such as MTM not only reduced fraud and abuse in the system, but it streamlined the process,” said Jeremiah Samples, DHHR Deputy Secretary for Public Health and Insurance.

Under the contract with MTM, the Bureau for Medical Services receives a rebate of anything over MTM’s annual pre-tax profit of 7.5 percent.

In 2013, there were more than 432,000 non-emergency transports in West Virginia for residents under Medicaid, which were managed by county DHHR offices. From October 01, 2014, to October 19, 2015, MTM received 413,000 calls and scheduled approximately 475,000 trips.
Samples said the contract paid off big dividends by “saving the state money and allowing DHHR workers to focus on their other job duties to help those under Medicaid.”

The funds have been deposited in the Bureau of Medical Services account and will be used to provide medical services to West Virginia residents.

MTM is responsible for full administration of the program including customer services, provider enrollment, verification of safety requirements, utilization review and monitoring for fraud and abuse.

Medicaid is a federal program administered by the state to help with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources.

G-Eye™: Halloween 2015

In Glenville, WV
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Did You Know?

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The 45-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker accepts the gavel and promises to bring the House’s Republican rebels back onto the fold.


One passenger suffers serious burns and some 100 others are forced to quickly evacuate the aircraft at the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.


The leading GOP candidate tells the AP it was a “huge mistake” that the top Seventh-day Adventist policymaking body recently voted against ordaining women.


It’s still not clear how the Army radar blimp broke free from its mooring in Maryland and drifted all the way to north-central Pennsylvania, where it descended into trees.


The group is seeking to convince the government and the rebels to agree to a national cease-fire - while everyone tries to figure out what to do with Assad.


The influx tends to abate as winter nears, but this year, numbers have only risen, partly due to crowding in refugee centers in Turkey and Lebanon.


One-third of the 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since mid-September have died in Hebron, the site of near-daily deadly confrontations.


Wal-Mart and Target hope to lure shoppers with discounts, stepped-up marketing and spiffed-up stores.


The money is to help cover the costs that users suffered because of technical problems with the pre-paid debit card, which is backed by the hip-hop mogul.


American Simone Biles wins her third straight world gymnastics title, cementing her status as the overwhelming favorite to top the podium at next summer’s Olympics.

WV Fall 2015 Foliage Report: Colorful Areas Remain As Fall Foliage Season Winds Down

The Gilmer Free Press

Officials with the West Virginia Division of Forestry say the final weekend of October will likely be the last to see significant fall foliage in 2015.

State foresters report great color along the ridges of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in the Eastern Panhandle. Foliage along these ridges varies from the reds, purples and yellows of oaks to bright red sumac in the forest understory.

Recommended drives and destinations include Hampshire Grade Road over Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area and the Washington Heritage Trail (Berkeley County); River Road/Trough Road, Mission Road and Shepherdstown (Jefferson County), and WV Highway 9 and Cacapon State Park (Morgan County). Note: Foliage in lower elevations is past peak and/or down in all three counties.

In Hampshire County, the main canopy is reported to be at full color.

Foresters recommend a drive along U.S. Highway 50, but warn roadside vegetation is past peak.

All mountainous sections of Hardy County are displaying a panorama of vibrant color.

Foresters say most any area of the county will have lots of color, but a drive along WV Highway 28 may be the most colorful.

Although past peak, foliage is still showing good color at the Coopers Rock State Forest overlook and in the Cheat Lake area.

Good viewing opportunities remain in Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer and Wyoming counties where foliage is reported to be peak.

Recommended drives include State Line Ridge Road and U.S. Highway 52 (McDowell County), WV Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 460 (Mercer County), and WV Highway 10 (Lincoln, Logan and Wyoming counties).

Foresters report excellent viewing opportunities in western Raleigh County.

The eastern portion of Raleigh County is past peak and has suffered significant leaf drop.

Foresters recommend drives along WV Highway 2 through Pleasants and Tyler counties and WV Highway 14 in Roane and Wirt counties. Color there is reported to be good and plentiful.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry reports the majority of the remaining foliage in the state is past peak. Recent winds and rains have taken their toll on leaves in West Virginia and will continue to do so.

West Virginia News

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Former teacher apologizes for straw gun purchase

CHARLESTON, WV — A former Kanawha County teacher apologized Tuesday for purchasing a gun for her then-boyfriend who later used it in a murder.

Jennifer Napier, 39, of East Bank, a former math teacher at George Washington High School, said the 2011 purchase at the Trading Post in Marmet was a “poor decision” and “I’ve lost everything because of it.”

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver sentenced Napier to one-year and one-day in prison. She agreed to self-report in December.

Jennifer Napier had her possible sentenced reduced for her cooperation and limited criminal record.

Copenhaver could have sentenced Napier to up to 30 months but reduced the time under federal sentencing guidelines because of her “cooperation and limited criminal record.”

Federal prosecutors had hoped for even more time. They presented evidence that Napier had purchased two other firearms after the 2011 purchase but Copenhaver ruled Napier didn’t lie on the federal gun purchase form during the second purchase like she did in 2011. The third gun purchased remains unidentified.

Napier told Copenhaver she was in love with Tremale Straughter when he asked her to get the gun, he was a convicted felon. She said she had no idea he would use it to murder Donovan “Don Don” Taylor in February 2013, 16 months after the straw purchase.

Napier offered to testify against Straughter but he pleaded guilty to the murder charge in Kanawha County Circuit Court before his scheduled trial.

Napier pleaded guilty to the federal crime back in April. She was charged with possession of synthetic marijuana in South Charleston this past summer and in a separate incident testified positive for cocaine. But Copenhaver said Napier has passed 16 drug tests since then and completed 20 weeks of drug abuse counseling.

Napier was also sentenced to three years supervised release. She was not fined.

Napier gave a brief statement to the court:

“I apologize to the victim’s family, the board of education, and my family. I take full responsibility,” she said. “I was in love and I made a poor decision. I’ve lost everything because of it.”

Under the plea bargain with federal prosecutors, Napier agreed to give up her teaching certificate until after her sentence and supervised release.

Fire destroys parsonage in Harrison County

ENTERPRISE, WV — An early morning fire has destroyed a parsonage in Harrison County.

The blaze sparked sometime around 4 a.m. Thursday morning along Long Street in Enterprise, according to officials.

It is believed to have started on a porch and spread due, in part, to the high overnight winds.

The family inside the home at the time was reportedly able to escape unharmed as no injures were reported.

No cause of the fire is known at this time, but the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office was called to investigate.

AHA promotes ‘World Stroke Day’ by informing West Virginians about warning signs

SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV — In honor of World Stroke Day, health officials are spreading awareness about the brain attack that is the fifth leading cause of death in West Virginia, according to the American Heart stroke day

The AHA reports someone suffers a stroke every two seconds worldwide. One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime, but one in three Americans can’t name any stroke signs at all.

The facts have led officials to teach West Virginians about the signs that are part of the acronym F.A.S.T. — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911.

“It’s important that we educate our kids, our parents, our loved ones and our friends because if we can prevent this disease, think of how many people we are keeping here on this Earth,” said Paige Johnson, the public relations director for Thomas Health System, following an event held Thursday at Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston.

Johnson is a stroke survivor who said she was completely confused when she realized what was happening to her body a few years ago.

“My face started to droop and my husband looked at me and he said ‘something’s not right.’ I couldn’t speak,” said Johnson. “I kind of was joking with the people I was speaking to. For me, that’s an anomaly. I can’t speak? I can always speak.”

The attack made Johnson realize she needed to be more careful with what medications she was taking at the time.

“It was just one of those surreal moments that ‘wait a minute. Stop and take a breath and realize what had happened.’ I stress and I talk about all the time — make sure you know the risk factors,” she said.

Johnson said her message is to stay healthy, drink a lot of water, be active and to take care of your body. She said, “It’s the only body you’re going to get, so take care of yourself.”

In addition to Thursday’s event, students from Ruthlawn Elementary School performed their original “F.A.S.T. Song” about the warning signs. The students also brought wore special T-shirts, brought banners and signs as part of their presentation.

State police awarded ‘Best Cruiser’ in the nation

INSTITUTE, WV — West Virginia state troopers will now be on the roads driving what is considered the “Best Cruiser” in the nation named by the American Association of State Troopers.

An award ceremony was held Thursday morning at the West Virginia State Police Academy in Institute to recognize the vehicle that was ‘liked’ by over 17,000 people on Facebook.

The contest was based on photos that were posted of each state police cruiser nationwide. AAST Vice President Jeffrey Lane said West Virginia had the highest total number of ‘likes.’

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“I think looking at it daily, when I would look at some of the ‘likes’ and the comments, I’d suspect that a vast majority of those folks were probably here in West Virginia supporting their home state and that says a lot about West Virginia,” said Lane prior to the ceremony.

State police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said receiving the award meant West Virginians really support their work.

“It really means a lot to us,” said Baylous. “This is just a simple contest. We have a population of about 1.7 million and states like Ohio — they probably have cities that have more than than, but yet the pride in West Virginia shows.”

The West Virginia cruiser is a Ford Interceptor with a twin turbo charged engine, but what most people notice on the outside is the “beautiful blue and gold color scheme that’s so unique from other states,” Baylous said.

Lane said while the cruiser is unique, it also adds to a state trooper’s identity.

“When you associate the term ‘state trooper,’ most people are going to think of one of two things — one, the first thing they think about is the vehicle because that’s what the associate troopers with. The second thing is their uniform,” he said.

The West Virginia State Police cruiser will be featured on the AAST’s 2016 trooper calendar.

Lane said the contest is meant to support the foundation, which supports troopers in times of need. Scholarships are also available for children of state troopers in the United States.

US attorney urges reversal on children’s treatment center

CHARLESTON, WV — A federal prosecutor is urging West Virginia to rescind its approval of a proposed children’s psychiatric hospital in Logan.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Thursday that U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld objected to the 70-bed facility in an October 13 letter to Karen Bowling, the state health and human resources secretary.

The letter came four months after the U.S. Department of Justice criticized the state for too often placing children in institutions rather than in community-based services that would allow young patients to remain in their homes.

“The state has needlessly segregated thousands of children far from family and other people important in their lives,“ acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta wrote to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin after a year-long study.

Health department spokeswoman Sarah Lieu said Bowling approved the proposed Dazzy Vance Mountain Retreat so children being treated in out-of-state facilities can be returned to West Virginia.

But Ihlenfeld wrote that the out-of-state facilities are closer to home for some children than the proposed Logan treatment center. Children from Martinsburg would be six hours away, while Morgantown and Wheeling would be four hours away, he wrote.

“Children from my district sent to Dazzy Vance would be unable to interact with their families in any significant manner, which is in direct contravention to the recommendations resulting from the investigation,“ Ihlenfeld wrote.

He also said there has been a lack of transparency in the planning stage.

As of mid-September, there were 175 West Virginia children at out-of-state psychiatric facilities, health department officials said, and only 98 beds at facilities in West Virginia.

The $10.8 million Dazzy Vance facility would be built with private money and run by Trinity Health Care Services, which operates nursing homes in Logan and Mingo counties, but eventually would get most of its income through the government through Medicaid.

Marshall enrollment up 2.7%

HUNTINGTON, WV — Marshall University’s enrollment is up 2.7 percent this fall.

The Herald-Dispatch reports that the Marshall Board of Governors received the report on fall enrollment Wednesday. An increase of 257 students brings total enrollment to 13,334.

Michael McGuffey, senior vice president of institutional research and planning, also reported that the university’s student retention rate is 78 percent. He said that’s a 4.5 percent increase over the past two years.

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Murderer Walks Into a Jail to Confess, Gets Turned Away

One cannot simply walk into the Santa Clara County Main Jail, apparently. Hugo Ernesto Castro tried to surrender at the San Jose, Calif., facility on Monday, but he was told to go elsewhere even after he had confessed to stabbing his ex-girlfriend and handed over a note revealing where her body was, reports the San Jose Mercury News. A deputy at the prison told the 28-year-old that he was in the wrong place and instructed him to walk two blocks to police headquarters, which he obligingly did. Police found the body of Castro’s former girlfriend at the address he gave and he was arrested, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The sheriff’s office is trying to find out why the deputy didn’t follow standard procedure and detain Castro or at least escort him to the police station. “Once they leave, who knows what’s going to happen next,“ a retired San Francisco police captain tells the Mercury News. “Maybe they go the two blocks and turn themselves in. Or maybe they have second thoughts, or go home and destroy evidence.“ The deputy has been reassigned, the Mercury News reports, and Castro is now being held at the jail he first went to.

DNA Evidence Is More Fallible Than People Think

DNA testing has improved to the point where it is starting to incriminate the wrong people in some cases, experts warn. The problem is super-sensitive equipment and DNA transfer, which can lead to a person’s DNA being found on a body or murder weapon even if they had only shaken hands with the real criminal or visited the crime scene, reports NBC News, quoting a column from DNA analyst Cynthia Cale in the journal Nature. New DNA kits can identify a person from even the tiniest scraps of biological material, Cale writes, but when juries are told there is a “one-in-a-quadrillion chance that the evidence retrieved from the crime scene did not come from a defendant,“ they aren’t usually told about the possibility of transfer, she writes.

Cale—who says we “urgently need to review how DNA evidence is assessed, viewed, and described"—cites the case of an innocent man who spent months in jail after his DNA was found on a murder victim, having been transferred there by paramedics who took the man to a hospital before going to the murder scene. At the New Republic, law professor Erin Murphy describes how DNA transfer initially led police to an impossible suspect in the 2009 murder of Yale student Annie Le. After her body was found in her lab’s crawl space, DNA found on her skin and underwear matched that of a convicted offender in the area. He had left DNA behind when he carried out construction work in the lab, Murphy writes, but he might still have gone to prison for the crime—if he hadn’t died two years earlier.

Hackers Threaten to Unhood KKK Members

This is the 21st century, and sticking a white hood over your head isn’t enough to keep your identity secret, Anonymous has informed the Ku Klux Klan. The hackers have threatened to expose the identities of 1,000 KKK members as part of a battle against the group that started during last year’s Ferguson protests, reports the Huffington Post, which notes that some Klan members are believed to have already quit the group out of fear of exposure. Anonymous, which hacked KKK-linked Twitter accounts during #OperationKKK last year, says it discovered the identities of Klan members by hacking yet another Twitter account.

The goal is to strip the group of its anonymity, not its right to free speech, Anonymous said in a press release. “We feel confident that applying transparency to your organizational cells is the right, just, appropriate, and only course of action,“ the statement says. “You are more than extremists. You are more than a hate group. You operate much more like terrorists and you should be recognized as such. You are terrorists that hide your identities beneath sheets and infiltrate society on every level. The privacy of the Ku Klux Klan no longer exists in cyberspace.“

3 Injured in Indianapolis Mall Shooting

A gunman shot three people and terrified hundreds more when he opened fire at a mall in Indianapolis Wednesday night. Police believe the incident was the result of a dispute between the gunman and one of the victims, not a random mass shooting, reports the Indianapolis Star. Police say the suspect entered the Washington Square Mall and opened fire on a man he apparently knew near a Target store. Two women, apparently bystanders, were also shot and all three victims were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. “This could have been a mall, a park, the gas station,“ a police spokesman says, per the AP. “This could have been anywhere that these two individuals ran into each other.“

The gunman has not been apprehended and police have not released a description of him or a possible second suspect. Witnesses tell WTHR that there was chaos in the mall after 10 or 11 shots rang out. A man who ran to safety with his 3-year-old son says he saw two of the victims fall to the ground. “You could tell they were shot. So didn’t nobody have time to go back and see if they’re okay, because when you hear a gunshot, your first instinct is to run,“ he says. A woman who had entered Target minutes before the shooting tells the Star that after the shots, “someone started screaming, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.‘ Then it was just deafeningly quiet.“

Girl, 5, Wants to Skip Hospital, Die at Home

Michelle Moon has had some wrenching conversations with her daughter, Julianna Snow, who, at just 5 years old, is dying of an incurable disease. She’s endured painful procedures and numerous hospitalizations during her battle with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a neurodegenerative illness that has robbed her of the ability to walk, eat normally, or even breathe without the help of a machine, leading to the first such conversation with her mom when she was just 4. As recounted by Moon on her blog in July of this year:

  • “Julianna, if you get sick again, do you want to go to the hospital again or stay home?“
  • “Not the hospital.“
  • “Even if that means that you will go to heaven if you stay home?“
  • “Yes.“

Many such conversations have followed, with Moon and her husband making sure Julianna understands what it means to die, and understands that’s what will happen if she does not go back to the hospital. Moon has written about those conversations—and her and her husband’s decision to honor their daughter’s wishes, if they remain the same, by not sending her back to the hospital if her prognosis is not good—on both her blog and The Mighty, and now CNN explores the family’s sad story in a 2-part series. If Julianna gets sick again, a hospital visit might just prolong her suffering rather than save her life, Moon tells CNN, and her and her husband’s desire to put their daughter through that in hopes of getting a bit more time with her is “selfish,“ she says. But the decision is controversial, with some arguing a 5-year-old is too young to understand the stakes. “Our nurse cried with us and told us she believed children with terminal illnesses do understand death,“ Moon wrote in a recent post on The Mighty explaining the difficult decision. “They may not understand everything about it, but who really does?“

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China’s One-Child Policy Is No More

For more than three decades, China has enforced a one-child policy meant to tamp down on population growth. Today marks a big change. Per the official Xinhua News Agency, China’s Communist Party has replaced the one-child policy with a two-child policy, meaning any couple in China can have two children if they choose, reports the BBC. How exactly the change might transform the country isn’t yet clear. The BBC reports as many as 90% of couples already eligible to have a second child under a law relaxed in 2013—which eliminates the rule if the mother or father is an only child—haven’t had a second, meaning the government’s hope of boosting births by 2 million per year wasn’t met. Still, President Xi Jinping hopes the latest change will help create more “balanced growth,“ as Bloomberg puts it.

The change comes after a secretive gathering of the Communist Party Central Committee that focused on drawing up the country’s next Five Year Plan. The AP observes that “in recent years, it has been unusual for such plenary sessions to result in major decisions.“ But 30% of the population is now over 50, and with so few children around, half of primary and secondary schools have closed in China over the last 15 years. Overall, it is believed that the one-child policy has prevented some 400 million births—including through forced abortions—since it was adopted nationally in 1979. “I did fall pregnant a second time, but I had an abortion,“ a grandmother tells the BBC. “You either go willingly or the government comes for you.“

Aussie Professor: Our Accent Is From Drunk Forefathers

A communications professor in Australia has caused quite a stir Down Under with a public complaint that almost everyone there talks like drunks. In tracing the origins of the Australian accent in the Age, Dean Frenkel of Victoria University describes its Aboriginal, English, Irish, and German roots. So far, so good. But then Frenkel asserts that Australia’s forefathers hit the bottle so often that they and “added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns,“ one that has been passed along from generation to generation in the 200 years since. “We are teaching our children to speak drunk—it’s so bizarre,“ Frenkel tells The site offers up this doozy of an example: “G’day, are ya gonna go for a sniddy ana bevo this arvo?“ (For the uninitiated, Sniddy’s is a popular restaurant chain, bevo is an alcoholic beverage, and arvo is afternoon.)

Frenkel complains about lazy articulation, missing consonants, and vowels that blur with other vowels (night into noight), and he calls for schools to begin emphasizing proper speaking skills. “We will not achieve near to the degree we are capable of if we don’t concentrate on our language.“ But a skeptical sociolinguist tells Australia’s that Frenkel’s view is not “well-versed in history or linguistics.“ And even if it were true that alcohol is responsible for the nation’s distinctive sound, so be it. “Linguists don’t think any form of language is necessarily wrong or bad or incorrect,“ she says. As long as people make themselves understood, that’s all that matters. Besides, as the Independent notes, a survey this year found that Australia’s accent is the fourth most attractive, behind British, American, and Irish.

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