Did You Know?

The Free Press WV


Britain’s decision to remove itself from the European Union brings more political turmoil as Scotland’s leader threatens to block the move.


A senior Iraqi military commander declares the city of Fallujah “fully liberated” from the extremists.


Fireworks explode as a huge container ship makes the inaugural passage through the newly expanded Panama Canal.


The injuries come as counter-protesters confront right-wing extremists who planned to rally outside the California state Capitol building.


The campaign managers for Clinton and Sanders have become a powerful political odd couple and are engineering a graceful conclusion to the hard-fought Democratic contest.


The pontiff defends his use of the term “genocide” to describe the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, saying that’s how he has always referred to the massacre. The Turks have long rejected the term.


The massacre at a Florida gay nightclub tempers this year’s gay pride parades, in which thousands marched in the U.S.


The crash of the Tsunami coaster ride at a theme park in Motherwell injures eight children and two adults.


The BET Awards plays like “The Prince Tribute Show” with performers honoring the late entertainer.


Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka are sidelined by injuries and won’t play this year. Maria Sharapova is serving a suspension for failing a drug test.

GSC Participating in Second Chance Pell Program

The Free Press WV

GLENVILLE, WV - Glenville State College has been named by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) as the only college in West Virginia to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program. The program, which includes 66 other educational institutions across the United States, will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. The program builds on the USDOE’s commitment to contribute to a more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

GSC and the other selected colleges and universities will partner with 141 Federal and state penal institutions to enroll roughly 12,000 incarcerated students in educational and training programs. Through the Second Chance Pell pilot program, Federal Pell Grant funds will be made available to qualified students who are incarcerated and are likely to be released within five years of enrolling in coursework.

“Education has long been an avenue for achieving more meaningful employment and we applaud the Department’s efforts to reduce chances for re-incarceration. Glenville State College is proud to be the only college in West Virginia to help these students earn a chance for better jobs upon their release,” said GSC President Dr. Peter Barr.

Since 2005, Glenville State College has been an active partner in educating the incarcerated population at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Gilmer. GSC and FCI Gilmer have an educational agreement that will be expanded to a larger percentage of their population by allowing them to use their Federal Pell Grant money. GSC already offers a two-year degree program in business at FCI Gilmer and has seen over 50 individuals complete that program. With the announcement of the Second Chance Pell program, offerings will expand to include two- and four-year programs in business and natural resource management with a concentration in land surveying. Plans are being made for GSC to offer programs at Huttonsville Correctional Center in Randolph County as well.

“We are looking forward to our partnership with Huttonsville Correctional Center and we appreciate how accommodating and open the administrators at that facility have been. It will obviously help their incarcerated population but we also see it as helping the economy in the Elkins area as we will be looking for adjunct faculty to teach the courses,” said GSC’s Institutional Program Coordinator Jonathan Massey. Interested instructors should contact Massey at 304.462.6022.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said, “The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.” He added, “I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them become active and engaged citizens.”

This announcement comes on the heels of another invitation from the Department of Education that gives Glenville State College exclusive permission to take part in their nationwide experiment for high school students taking dual enrollment courses. That program opens access to Federal Pell Grants for eligible West Virginia high school students to take part in GSC dual enrollment courses at no cost. GSC’s inclusion in the initiative was announced in May.

Taylor Bridge Dedication in Troy, WV

The Free Press WV

On Friday, June 17, Senator Kent Leonhardt, Delegate Roger Handshaw and U.S. Army Col John Hess dedicated the bridge crossing Leading Creek in Troy, WV in memory of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert D. Taylor, “Taylor”.  Attending the ceremony were many of Taylor’s classmates, family, and friends.  All of his friends called him Taylor.

Taylor graduated from Gilmer County High School in 1981 and went on to enlist in the U.S. Army.  Taylor loved to go fast and fly high and he got to fulfill the dream by flying Cobra Helicopters for the U.S. Army. 

Officer Taylor was aboard an AH-1 Cobra Helicopter assigned to the 5th Bn, 501st Aviation Regiment U.S. Army patrolling the Korean demilitarized zone between South and North Korea and was killed on November 13, 1991. 

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

The bridge being dedicated in his memory crosses Leading Creek served as the state road access to the community where the Taylor family lived. The bridge is just east of the community of Troy on WV Highway 47 on the road formerly known as Spruce Run Road now named as Hemlock Run Road.

When Taylor lived on “Spruce Run” there was an old steel truss bridge. The bridge was replaced in 2010 with a new concrete span that meets today engineering and safety standards and was designed by Tim Hermansdorfer, project managed by Chris Williams and Kelly Kees and Project Supervisor was Gary Butler of the WV Department of Highways.

Construction on the bridge was done by Kenton Meadows Construction of Gassaway, WV.

Delegate Handshaw talked about the quality work District 7 DOH employees had done in Gilmer County and the need for more resources to maintain the aging infrastructure.

“Safe roads and bridges are important to West Virginia’s economy and the State needs to continue to invest resources to address maintenance and improve road surfaces.” 

The Free Press WV

Senator Leonhardt said “We had a great turn out of family, friends and classmates to help remember Taylor’s service to our country. I appreciate the Lewis County Honor Guard, students from Leading Creek School and others that participated in honoring Taylor.  It is important that we remember those that gave their lives for our freedom and those that are still serving and fighting to keep this world a safer place. We must not take our freedom for granted”.

Senator Leonhardt presented Robert Taylor’s mom, Alice Taylor, and brother, Richard, with a memorial sign and closed his remarks by saying, “Let this simple sign remind us of the sacrifice of the Taylor family, but all the families whose son and daughters gave their lives so that we may enjoy our freedoms.  We can never repay the this debt of sacrifice but we must try by being a country worthy of the sacrifice.” 

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center Offers Direct Scheduling

The Free Press WV

Clarksburg, WV – On Monday, June 27, 2016 Veterans who are enrolled at Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center can begin making appointments with their local VA Audiology and Optometry clinics without seeing their VA Primary Care physician first. This is a significant change to doing business at VA because previously, enrolled Veterans had to visit their Primary Care Physician for a referral, even if they had no other health care issues.

The idea for this process improvement came from interviews with employees throughout the country who felt that this change would save time for Veterans and free up Primary Care clinical time. Research confirmed that valuable Primary Care access was partially being used for routine Audiology and Optometry referrals, while demand for Primary Care services was outgrowing the capacity of the Primary Care clinics. Direct Scheduling will save time for the Veterans and free up clinical time for Primary Care doctors.

This change is part of a nation-wide VA rollout of Direct Scheduling to Audiology and Optometry clinics, which VA expects to complete by the end of 2016. LAJVAMC has been selected to participate in the first phase of the VA nation-wide rollout of Direct Scheduling of Audiology and Optometry services.

“Direct Scheduling across all Audiology and Optometry clinics has the potential to decrease facility wait times by alleviating the case flow to Primary Care physicians, and would thereby improve the Veteran experience and access to services,” said Dr. Glenn R. Snider, Medical Center Director, “We are honored to be a leader in this effort. Taking the lead in efforts like Direct Scheduling affirms the VA’s commitment to fostering a Veteran-centric culture of care which honors Veterans’ service and empowers Veterans to achieve optimum health and well-being.”

For more information on Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, contact the Scheduling Department at 304.623.3461x7676. If you would like to enroll with the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, please visit or contact the Enrollment Department at 304.623.3461x3332.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Greenbrier Resort Opens Doors to Flood Victims

The Greenbrier Resort is opening its doors to victims devastated by flooding in West Virginia.

In a statement Saturday evening, the resort said it is offering a limited number of rooms and meals to those with no place to go for as long as the resort is closed for business.

Greenbrier owner and CEO Jim Justice said, “We just hope that by providing a good meal and a comfortable and safe place to spend the night that we can help ease the pain just a little to those who are suffering so much from this unbelievable disaster.“

The PGA Tour canceled the Greenbrier Classic scheduled for next month because of the devastating flooding. The tournament had been scheduled for July 07-10.

►   Price gouging being investigated by WV Attorney General following flooding

Accusations of price gouging have West Virginia’s Attorney General Investigating.

A spokesperson for AG Patrick Morrisey says members of the office are taking calls from the public and they are working to gather information so claims can be investigated.

“We stand ready to assist any consumer in this time of crisis,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The impact of this disaster will not disappear overnight. Neither will my office’s commitment to help those in need.”

According to the news release:

The consumer tip line can be reached at 1.800.368.8808 or online at It will remain operational with extended, weekend hours from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

It should be a resource for anyone with questions about suspicious charities, dubious contractors and/or potential violations of the state’s price gouging statute.

That law specifically prohibits any person, business, or contractor from inflating the price of select consumer items by more than 10 percent of what it sold for 10 days prior to the declaration.

►   24 dead in West Virginia floods; search and rescue continues

Surrounded by muddy devastation, Cathy Light and her husband Chris thought it was “heaven sent” they had free burgers to munch on in a Clendenin parking lot Saturday.

To their left, the roof of a Dairy Queen slumped to the pavement. Behind it, a trailer home was ripped from its foundation, with four concrete stairs all that remained in the ground. Occasional whiffs of rotten food wafted from a nearby grocery store that, not long ago, was filled with five feet of muck water.

Before they jumped in a rescue boat in Clendenin on Saturday, the Lights could only save their dog Odie and a TV that sat atop a bedroom dresser – the highest-up they stored anything in their house, really.

The heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia resulted in at least 24 deaths, leaving families homeless with the tearful realization that they’re starting from scratch.

“I don’t have anything,“ said Cathy Light, as she ate the free meal provided by Grace Community Church. “Where do we go now?“

The scene in Clendenin, located in Kanawha County, wasn’t as deadly as in Rainelle. Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in Ranielle. Greenbrier is the only county where Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration believes people remain missing.

“It does not appear there are unaccounted for people in other counties, but it’s still a somewhat fluid situation,“ said Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s chief of staff.

Rainelle Mayor Andrea “Andy” Pendleton wept as she surveyed her town Saturday.

“I weep for my people, I weep for the businesses,“ she said.

About six buses full of people whose homes were either without power or too damaged to inhabit were evacuated. Some were taken initially to a fire department facility, but then it flooded so they were moved to an abandoned store. When that started to flood, buses took the evacuees to a church 40 miles away.

Search and rescue teams went house to house, marking those checked with a spray-painted ‘X.‘ Abandoned pets were taken to a shelter. A water department filtration system, built with a $2.6 million loan, was damaged, Pendleton said.

Help came from multiple sources, including two search and rescue teams from Virginia.

Six other deaths were reported in Kanawha, in addition to one each in Jackson and Ohio counties. About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their cars. A gravel access road was built to let them out.

On Saturday, Tomblin was approved for a major federal disaster declaration to get help for Greenbrier and the two other counties hardest hit by flooding. Tomblin’s office said he made an expedited verbal request Saturday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for individual assistance for Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Individual assistance includes housing and crisis counseling.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in Greenbrier County, where The Greenbrier luxury resort and golf course is nestled in the mountains. The PGA Tour has canceled a tournament there from July 4-10 because the course is overrun by floodwaters.

“Cancelling The Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation,“ PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a news release Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.“

Resort owner Jim Justice said the needs of flood-ravaged West Virginians are of utmost concern. Two health-care facilities at the resort will be open this weekend to provide care for residents. The resort will also offer a limited amount of free rooms and meals to those affected by the floods for as long as the resort is closed for business, Justice said in a statement Saturday evening.

“All of our focus needs to be on helping all of the people of our great state,“ Justice said in a news release. “So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go.“

An area near the West Virginia-Virginia border received at least 9 inches of rain while other parts of the state had 3 to 5 inches, National Weather Service hydrologist John Sikora said. A flood warning remains in effect for Greenbrier County until 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Others waited days to see their loved ones rescued.

Kari Townsend of Clendenin sat at a shelter in Charleston for most of Friday before her niece, Britani Shafer, and her niece’s five-month-old baby, Shay, made it to safety.

The mother and child had been holed up in a doctor’s office in flooded downtown Clendenin since Thursday afternoon, and started running out of baby formula. Shafer could only send a couple text messages to let her family know what was going on.

Shafer’s neighbor was able to get her out in a truck, and he drove the pair back to meet up with their family.

“There was not a dry eye, let me tell you,“ Townsend said. “The baby is fine, (Britani Shafer) is good. It’s awesome.“

►   “A Town Built to Carry On”

RAINELLE, WV — Rainelle: “A Town Built to Carry On” is the first thing you see when traveling to or through West Virginia’s Rainelle. It’s the town’s slogan, and it’s a powerful one. It’s tough to say that people can “carry on” when they’ve been displaced by some of the worst flooding in West Virginia history, but in Rainelle, at least some of the residents are.

Terry Cordial has lived in her Rainelle home for eight years. Like a lot of the town, her family’s choice was tied to having previously worked in now bankrupted and abandoned coal mines.

“This was my husband’s family home for twenty-some years,” said Cordial. “Water has gotten to the porch, but never inside the house. It come fast, I just couldn’t believe it,” she went on, gesturing above her waist where the water rose to on the family home’s first floor.

The Cordials felt lucky. They were able to save a lot of the things they care about. Their animals are safe — even if two of three dogs had to be surrendered to a rescue team for their safety, their high value items were moved to the highest room in the house — they’re safe, and the family is safe.

“We’re just happy we have our lives, it’s more than others have.”

She went on to describe how people had lost their loved ones in Rainelle, “even during the rescue attempt, they were taken by the water.”

“My neighbors, they’re mostly elderly and disabled. If you hear that any of them need help, please let me know if I can help them,” she said while piling her possessions, now in black Hefty bags to be removed like the weekly trash.

Cordial’s family fleet of four vehicles was left totaled by the floods, like most of Rainelle’s automobiles, so I offered to leave her with some of the cases of water brought from Morgantown to help.

“I have two cases,” said Cordial.

“We don’t want more than we need in this moment. We’ll get it if we need it, but there are others who need it more than we do.”

It’s tough for West Virginia to stay positive this week, but Rainelle, among the most damaged from the flooding, remains positive.

Against all odds, Terry Cordial and her family will stay, and they will rebuild what they’ve lost. It’s their home, and they will carry on — Rainelle will carry on.

►   Theatre West Virginia welcomes 10 new interns

BEAVER, WV — Sing. Dance. Act. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Since June 10, aspiring performers from all across the country have been singing, dancing and acting their hearts out on stage at Grandview’s Cliffside Amphitheatre as part of Theatre West Virginia’s Professional Training Program for Musical Theatre Interns.

The young men and women, who hail from Idaho to Florida, were selected not only based on their talents, but also on their drive to improve upon their skill set.

“They’re so hungry,“ said Jason Adkins, co-director of the intern program. “That’s how we cast them — not just on talent alone. We look at more than their qualifications, we look at their personalities.“

The 10 young actors took a break from rehearsals to chat with The Register-Herald about their work at the theatre so far this summer.

For Elli Caterisano, who’s studying music and theatre at Furman University in South Carolina, she said she feels lucky to have been chosen for the internship, but the long hours have been challenging.

“Back at school, rehearsals were three hours. Now, it’s seven hours a day,“ Caterisano said. “It’s been a big adjustment. I’ve learned a lot, but it took some getting used to.“

She also said it’s been difficult to remember to stay hydrated — the group laughed and agreed as they held up their refillable water bottles in solidarity.

This summer makes the second internship Astoncia Bhagat has been a part of. Bhagat, a Western Illinois University student, previously worked for three months in five shows at Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield, Ind.

“The more you do, the more skills you gain. It takes all kinds of skills to be a professional,“ she said. “You learn how to be an individual and part of a company, and how to take care of yourself.“

Another intern, Ashley Davis, a theatre student at Louisiana Tech University, said the dance skills she’s picked up during classes and rehearsals have been incredibly helpful.

“I’ve loved working on The Addams Family,“ Davis said. “I wasn’t much of a dancer before this show.“

The interns are a part of each of Theatre West Virginia’s productions this summer — The Addams Family Musical, Hatfields and McCoys, and Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical.

They’re all excited for each of the performances for varying reasons. For Charlee Haddock, a musical theatre student at Catawba College in North Carolina, she’s most excited about shooting a gun in the West Virginia historical drama, Hatfields and McCoys.

For Luke Jaconis, another Western Illinois University student, he’s looking forward to showing off all their skills at the end of the season with Ring of Fire. The cast for the Johnny Cash musical will be comprised primarily of the summer interns.

“It’s going to be our show,“ Jaconis said. “It’s our chance to take everything we learned here, go out and do it.“

Over just a few short weeks, the 10 young men and women have formed a special bond. They already feel like family.

“The people here are amazing,“ Caterisano added. “They’ve been a backbone and a support system.“

. . .

Two talented men, Jason Adkins and Terry Chasteen, oversee the intern program — from casting and housing to scheduling and directing.

After the former director’s departure, Chasteen was set to take over. Before his got his chance though, Theatre West Virginia announced its closure in September 2013 due to financial trouble.

Even after general manager Scott Hill announced the theatre’s revitalization, there simply wasn’t enough time or money to invite interns for the Hatfield and McCoys-only 2014 season.

Last year, Chasteen was finally able to bring back the program. He reached out to Adkins, and together they worked on the syllabus, which added an emphasis on dance and singing.

They happily welcomed eight young performers to the Cliffside Amphitheatre for the 2015 summer season.

“What I saw was a confidence and comfortability that comes with performing,“ Adkins said of the improvements of last year’s interns. “Most classes provide technique, but few offer application of that onto the stage, which helps them the most.“

Chasteen agreed that it’s difficult for young performers to learn their craft through programs at school.

“Here, they’re getting their feet wet with professional experience.“

In addition to performing in the three productions, the interns will receive college credit through New River Community and Technical College for attending vocal, dance and acting lessons.

Next year, the program aims to offer even more internship slots. For more information, email Terry Chasteen at .

Be sure to look for Adkins and Chasteen throughout the summer at TWV — they’ll be performing in addition to directing the interns.

. . .

General manager Scott Hill said he’s glad to have the interns back on board this summer.

“I think it’s important we bring people in from other parts of the country, to expose them to the positives of West Virginia.“

Hill said the Mountain State shows well once visitors arrive, but if out-of-staters make their assumptions based on headlines, the state can be seen in a negative light.

“That’s not the true West Virginia.“

He’s also excited for all the opportunities this internship will afford these young performers.

“There are ripples in what we do here. It can last forever. Scott will be gone in 50 years, but some of the things we’re doing here will still be making ripples in 50 years.“

Performances of The Addams Family will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Cliffside Amphitheatre in Grandview June 22-26, 29-30 and July 01.

Hatfields and McCoys will kick off July 6, and Ring of Fire will wrap up the season starting July 20.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call 304.256.6800.

Together Women Can…

Emma Watson, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Serena Williams, Megyn Kelly, and others thank the women who have helped them and encourage women everywhere to #LeanInTogether. Brought to you by LeanIn.Org and AOL’s MAKERS, this video celebrates the power of women supporting each other – and the amazing things that happen when they do. Learn more at

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Dozens burned in Texas walking on hot coals at Tony Robbins seminar

As many as 40 people were injured after walking on hot coals as part of a self-help seminar hosted by motivational speaker Tony Robbins in Texas, fire officials said on Friday.

Attendees of the “Unleash the Power Within” event, held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas, reported burns to their feet and legs just after 11 p.m. on Thursday, Dallas Fire and Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said.

“A lot of the attendees were asked to walk across hot coals, and as a result, a lot of the people sustained burn injuries,“ Evans said.

Of the 30 to 40 people injured, five were treated at the Parkland Hospital burn unit, Evans said. The others were treated and released at the scene. It was unclear how many participated in the coal walk.

The three-day seminar is intended to help people “break through any limit” and improve their quality of life, according a description posted on Robbins’ website.

Representatives for Robbins, who is a popular motivational speaker, personal finance adviser and bestselling author, were not immediately available for comment.

According to media reports, 21 out of 6,000 people who walked on hot coals at a Robbins event in 2012 in California were treated for burns.

Most people avoid burns because coals are not efficient conductors of heat, but standing too long in one spot and other factors can increase the risk. In the 2012 incident, there was speculation that the large number of people participating caused the lines of firewalkers to slow down, raising chances of burns.

►   FBI Has No Proof Orlando Gunman Was Gay: Officials

FBI investigators so far have not turned up persuasive evidence that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen was gay or pursuing gay relationships, according to two government officials familiar with the investigation who spoke anonymously to the AP. The FBI began looking into that possibility after media reports last week quoted men as saying that Mateen had reached out to them on gay dating apps and had frequented the gay nightclub where the June 12 massacre took place. One man claimed to be Mateen’s gay lover in an interview with Univision, while another recalled Mateen as a regular at the Pulse club who tried to pick up men. But the officials say the FBI—which has conducted 500 interviews, has recovered Mateen’s phone, and is reviewing evidence from it—has not found concrete evidence to corroborate such accounts.

They also cautioned that the investigation is ongoing and that nothing has formally been ruled out. Law enforcement officials have said there’s no doubt that Mateen was radicalized at some point before the attack, though there’s no evidence that he was directed by any foreign terror groups. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch has taken pains not to describe radical extremism as his sole motivation and declined in an interview with the AP on Tuesday to rule out any other possibility, including that he was secretly gay. “It’s entirely possible that he had a singular motive,“ she said. “It’s entirely possible that he had a dual motive.“

►   Flooding Kills 24 in West Virginia

As a deluge swamped southeast West Virginia—a disaster that killed at least 18 people—Ronnie Scott’s wife called him and told him their house was filling up with water. She fled to the attic with two dogs and a cat and waited. She smelled natural gas. Then, the house blew up. Belinda Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch, then make it onto a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police, Ronnie Scott told the AP on Friday. His wife was in the hospital with burns on 67% of her body. The pets did not make it out alive. “My wife was out there four and a half hours hanging in a tree with a house burning right beside her, flood waters running all around her,“ said Scott, who was not at the White Sulphur Springs home when the waters rose.

Early reports indicate about 9 inches of rain damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands of others, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their car. “Our focus remains on search and rescue,“ the governor said during a news conference. He added: “It’s been a long 24 hours and the next 24 hours may not be much easier.“ The deaths included an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy who were swept away in rushing creek waters in different counties, authorities said. Currently 200 National Guardsmen were assisting in eight counties, helping local crews with swift water rescues, search and extraction efforts and health and welfare checks. The governor declared a state of emergency in 44 of 54 counties and authorized up to 500 soldiers to assist.

►   After Brexit, ‘Texit’ Gains Steam in Texas

Not content with celebrating liberty on July 4, a group of Texans has gleaned inspiration from Brexit—the UK’s decision to leave the EU—with its own push for independence. The similar-sounding “Texit” movement, which gained significant support online Friday, is mainly being pushed by the Texas Nationalist Movement, which is basically the US soulmate of the UK secession initiative, according to its leader, David Miller, right down to the “Leave” campaign slogan that TNM says it’s been using for years. With a motto of “Texas First, Texas Forever,“ the group, like those behind Brexit, advocates for “self-government,“ Miller tells “At this moment, we don’t enjoy that right,“ he says. “The vast majority of the laws, rules, and regulations that affect the people of Texas are created by the political class or unelected bureaucrats in Washington.“

Vocativ decided to see how often the phrase “Texit” has been used in 2016 and found that online references spiked after the Brexit tally came in. Nearly 1,800 people tweeted something Texit-related in the hour of the announcement, with thousands more tweets following. Some of the posts are frighteningly serious, others are somewhat clever (cue the “most likely to secede” memes), and still others can’t do anything but virtually shake their heads. It’s not the first time some of the state’s residents have vied for a breakaway: Right after President Obama’s reelection, the White House turned down a petition signed by 125,000 people calling for Texas’ freedom, Fox News reported. One Texit supporter tells the Guardian that a secession would bring back “Texas solutions” on issues such as gay marriage, gun rights, and immigration. (Here, a few legal takes on secession rules.)

►   Tony Robbins’ Fire-Walking Exercise Ends in Burns

One of the activities for participants of Tony Robbins’ motivational seminars is walking on hot coals, an activity that, trainers tell WFAA, most people “didn’t think was possible.“ And, well, it turns out some of them were sort of right. During Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” seminar in Dallas Thursday night, about 40 people were treated by ambulances at the scene for burns to their feet and legs; five of them had to be taken to the hospital. Robbins’ website describes the coal-walking activity like so, per the Dallas Morning News: “Storm across a bed of hot coals. Once you start doing what you thought was impossible, you’ll conquer the other fires of your life with ease.”

But maybe they just didn’t believe hard enough, or something? Witnesses say some people were simply too distracted while doing the exercise: “There was someone in front of us and someone behind us on their cell phone, taking selfies and taking pictures,“ says one apparently uninjured fire walker. “So I think that that has a lot to do with it.“ Though 40 people may sound like a lot, WFAA notes that approximately 7,000 people tried the coal-walking exercise. “I’ve been doing events with Tony for 23 years, and while it may not look like that way, this was a successful event,“ the head trainer tells CBS DFW.

►   She Was Getting Alarm to Keep Him Out. He Was Already In

A Tennessee woman had a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend and had changed her locks twice. She says neither kept Tony Joe Gunter away and so she opted to have a security system installed. Authorities say the woman left her home in Goodlettsville briefly on Tuesday to visit a neighbor as an ADT worker was installing the alarm and returned to find her phone inexplicably missing from her bedroom. Then she noticed a pair of feet sticking out from under her bed—Gunter’s. Fearing for her life, the woman shot him in his left foot then kept him there as the installer called police, authorities tell WZTV. After a hospital visit, Gunter, 52, was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary, stalking, and other charges, reports the New York Daily News.

Police say the woman won’t be charged because she acted in self defense. “If he was trying to abuse her and she had a gun and she had a restraining order against him, then she has to protect herself,“ a neighbor tells WKRN. The pair reportedly dated for two years before the woman discovered Gunter’s “extensive criminal history” and broke off the relationship this month, per WZTV. Gunter then threatened to kill his ex, according to police. She filed a restraining order but police say the woman discovered signs that Gunter had broken into her home three times before the encounter Tuesday. Gunter—who police say admitted to taking the woman’s phone so she couldn’t call police—is being held on $165,000 bond.

►   Whitey Bulger’s Belongings Go for $109K at Auction

Despite being derided as “trash” and a “glorified yard sale,“ the belongings of infamous mob kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger fetched more than $109,000 at auction Saturday, the Boston Globe reports. According to Bloomberg, the US Marshals Service was selling the items—seized during Bulger’s capture in 2011 after 16 years on the run—to benefit his victims. More than 250 “mafia history enthusiasts” and others turned out to bid. The items included a rat-shaped pen holder (fetched $3,600), the white bucket hat Bulger was wearing when he was arrested ($6,400), the newspaper he was reading right before his capture ($500), and a replica of the 1986 Stanley Cup Champions ring ($9,100). That ring was the only belonging Bulger fought with authorities to keep.

But the auction also included more mundane items, Reuters reports. A punching bag, a floor safe, books on WWII with Bulger’s handwritten notes, and a collection of sneakers (“You can walk in Whitey’s shoes,“ says the auctioneer). A “lumpy old couch” was bought for $35. Left out of the auction were Bulger’s toiletries, underwear, and Nazi memorabilia. The money brought in at the auction, combined with $800,000 in cash Bulger had on him during his arrest, is still far short of the $25 million he owes his victims. Nevertheless, authorities were glad to be rid of his belongings. “We hope this will finally be the end of the Whitey Bulger saga here in Massachusetts and for the city of Boston,“ one official tells Bloomberg. The 86-year-old former mob boss is currently serving two life sentences.

►   F. Lee Bailey, OJ Simpson’s Attorney, Files for Bankruptcy

Famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, whose legion of high-profile cases includes the OJ Simpson murder trial, has filed for bankruptcy in Maine in an effort to discharge an IRS debt of more than $5 million, the AP reports. Debts to the IRS aren’t normally discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, but the 83-year-old Bailey said Friday that they can be if one abides by certain conditions, such as filing and paying his taxes on time since the original taxes and penalties were assessed. The debt stems from a dispute of his reportable income from 1993 to 2001, according to the Portland Press Herald. Bailey served as one of Simpson’s attorneys during the former NFL star’s 1995 trial, which ended in his acquittal in the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Bailey in the 1960s secured a reversal of Dr. Sam Sheppard’s conviction in the murder of his pregnant wife, and an acquittal at his second trial. He also represented Albert DeSalvo, who claimed to be the Boston Strangler. Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 over mishandling client assets, and Massachusetts issued a reciprocal disbarment in 2003. Bailey’s bid to gain admission to the Maine bar failed in 2014, when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reversed a judge’s ruling that would have allowed him to practice law in Maine. Bailey told the Press Herald he wants to discharge what he owes to the IRS. “At 83, it’s a little late to raise that kind of money overnight. It’s been a long battle,“ he said.

►   These Are the 10 Hottest U.S. Cities

You know what they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of Texas. 24/7 Wall St. has rounded up the hottest US cities based on the average number of days each year that temperatures reached at least 90 degrees since records began. A whopping seven of the top 10 are in the Lone Star State. The hottest cities and their average number of 90+ degree days:

  1. Phoenix, Ariz.: 169
  2. Tucson, Ariz.: 146
  3. Las Vegas, Nev.: 135
  4. Del Rio, Texas: 134
  5. Brownsville, Texas: 124
  6. San Antonio, Texas: 116
  7. Austin, Texas: 114
  8. San Angelo, Texas: 114
  9. Corpus Christi, Texas: 112
  10. Waco, Texas: 111

Click for the FULL LIST.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   I got you babe: Cher aims to free lonely, chained elephant in Pakistan

The plight of a lonely elephant in a Pakistani zoo has inspired help from pop icon Cher, who has sent a representative to oversee improvements in his living conditions.

Cher first became aware of 29-year-old Kavaan’s plight when pictures of the elephant in chains with only a dilapidated shed for shelter and a small, dirty pond to play in spread on social media.

Cher sent her representative, Mark Cowne, to Islamabad to check up on Kavaan, who has been kept chained for 27 of his 29 years at the Maraghazar Zoo in Islamabad.

“Mark got Kaavan Water, Shade & Unchained. MARK IS TRYING EVERYTHING TO FREE HIM,“ Cher tweeted after Cowne visited the zoo.

Cowne told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper that Cher would soon launch an international campaign to help elephants in captivity.

Kavaan’s caretakers last week said they had never heard of Cher or her music but were grateful for her help.

“We hope this will change things for him,“ said Kavaan’s caretaker, Muhammad Jalal, as another caretaker sprayed the animal with a high-pressure hose while he bathed in a pond of muddy water.

Zoo management did not respond to calls seeking comment but told reporters last month that they were trying to get a new mate for Kavaan from Sri Lanka.

Kavaan was given to Pakistan by Sri Lanka in the 1980s. His only companion died in 2012.

►   ‘Cafe Fellatio’ May Be Coming Soon to Geneva

The menu for a cafe planned in Geneva would be for adult eyes only if a Swiss firm gets its business plans approved. Bradley Charvet, who hails from a local escort agency and who came up with the idea for the so-called “cafe fellatio” (working title only, we assume), was inspired by places just like it in Thailand, the Local reports. How it would work: A male patron would enter the cafe, order a coffee, then scroll through an iPad looking for the prostitute he’d like to orally pleasure him. He’d then pony up the $60 or so for the service, plus a possible drink surcharge (what both the Local and Newstalk say would be the most expensive coffee in the city), take a seat at the “bar,“ and enjoy his order. “In five or ten minutes, it’s all over,“ Charvet told Le Matin newspaper.

Because prostitution is legal in Switzerland, Charvet’s scheme would, in theory, be on the up-and-up, as long as the establishment was classified as a massage parlor if two or more prostitutes plied their trade there. Right now, the city’s Department of Security and Economy is reviewing the paperwork and has yet to give it the green light. But just because it might be OK in the eyes of the law doesn’t mean everyone’s thrilled with the idea. Gregoire Thery, a rep for a French anti-prostitution organization, tells L’Express newspaper that the cafe would be, in effect, legalizing pimping and offering a benefit only for male patrons. “[The sex trade] is a real business and this sex cafe is making the most of that,“ Thery says. “They know very well that this is provocative.“

►   ‘Terrifying’ Glass Slide Hangs 1K Feet Above LA

Think China’s glass bridge is a bit freaky? Check out this video of AP reporter Amanda Lee Myers sliding down a glass slide. Did we mention it’s 1,000 feet above the ground? The 45-foot Skyslide, as it’s known, connects the 69th and 70th floors of the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles and will be open to the public Saturday (for a $33 fee) after a $50 million renovation. But a warning from Myers in her first-person account: It’s “utterly terrifying” and “nearly a straight shot down.“

►   Gunmen Take Guests Hostage After Blast at Somalia Hotel

Gunmen who stormed a hotel in Somalia’s capital have taken an unknown number of hotel guests hostage, police said Saturday, as the attackers set up snipers on the rooftop and threw grenades. Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the latest in a series of hotel assaults in Mogadishu. At least 15 people have been killed, according to CNN. Capt. Mohamed Hussein said some attackers had moved to the second floor and were using machine guns to resist security forces. Police said the attack on the Nasa-Hablod hotel in Mogadishu began when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at its gate. The AP reports gunmen fought their way inside, and a witness said they began shooting randomly at hotel guests. Hussein said security forces have killed two of the attackers. He also said he saw four bodies, thought to be civilians, lying outside the hotel.

It was not known how many attackers entered the hotel, nor how many guests were inside. The attackers “took positions behind blast walls and sandbags; fighting is still ongoing,“ Hussein said, as gunfire could be heard in the background. A witness, Ali Mohamud, said the attackers randomly shot at guests. “They were shooting at everyone they could see. I escaped through the back door,“ he said. Yusuf Ali said he evacuated 11 people injured in the attack to hospitals. “Most of them were wounded in crossfire,“ he said. The Somalia-based, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group has been waging a deadly insurgency across large parts of Somalia and often employs suicide car bomb attacks to penetrate heavily fortified targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

►   EU Wants UK to Get Out Fast

Now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, EU leaders don’t see any point in dragging things out. Foreign ministers from the bloc’s six founding nations held an emergency meeting in Berlin Saturday and urged Britain to trigger Article 50 as soon as possible instead of leaving months of uncertainly before negotiations begin, the Guardian reports. “We have to turn the page, we don’t want to create a vacuum,“ says Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders. “It won’t be business as usual.“ Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down and he wants his successor, who might not be in place until October, to handle exit negotiations. In other developments:

  • A petition urging the British government to hold a second referendum now has more than 1.5 million signatures, well above the 100,000 threshold that will require lawmakers to consider it. The petition calls for a do-over on the grounds that the vote in favor of a Brexit was less than 60%, based on a turnout less than 75%, the BBC reports.
  • The New York Times looks at the rifts the British decision has opened up in the UK and across Europe. Far-right parties across Europe are now calling for referendums on leaving the EU, while a new Scottish referendum on leaving the UK now seems certain. The British vote also exposed tensions between young and old, richer and poorer, and London and much of the rest of the country.
  • Does the Brexit victory signal electoral success for Donald Trump? The AP looks at reasons why it might not, including the fact that the US is a much more diverse nation than the UK.
  • Scotland voted to stay in the EU, and Reuters reports that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not only preparing for a fresh independence vote, she is seeking separate Scottish negotiations with the EU. “We will seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU institutions and with other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU,“ she told reporters Saturday.
  • UK Commissioner to the EU Jonathan Hill, the highest-ranking Brit in Brussels, is stepping down, the Wall Street Journal reports. “I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British commissioner as though nothing had happened,“ he said, expressing disappointment that Britain had voted against staying in the EU and pressing for an “outward-looking, flexible, competitive, free trade Europe.“
  • The Washington Post looks at the potential financial consequences of the British exit for Americans. It may make mortgages a little cheaper, for some, and will probably make vacations in the UK more affordable.

West Virginia Receives National Recognition for Physical Activity In Schools

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia received a national recognition for becoming the first state in the nation to enroll all 441 public elementary school in Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS). LMAS is the national initiative, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, to ensure that 60 minutes of physical activity day is the norm in schools across America. LMAS is a resource to equip teachers with easy ways of integrating more physical activity before, during and after the school day.

Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, presented the recognition to State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Martirano and State Board of Education President, Mike Green today during the 2016 KidStrong conference at the Charleston Civic Center.

“I celebrate this achievement because we know physical activity helps improve academic achievement, self-esteem and classroom discipline,” Martirano said. “Simply put, active students make better learners and it is critical for the future of our state that we educate our students on the importance of being active every day and living healthy lifestyles.”

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a proclamation in celebration of the achievement which congratulated West Virginia schools and educators for their commitment to promoting a healthy lifestyle for West Virginia’s children.

Enrollment in the program means providing teachers across the state with the resources needed to seamlessly integrate physical activity into the school day. This achievement placed West Virginia in the national spotlight, earning direct praise from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and sets a standard for states across the country.

For more information, visit, or contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Communications Office at 304.558.2699 or .

West Virginia Floodings 2016

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Governor Tomblin Announces Approved Federal Disaster Declaration - FEMA declaration to provide individual assistance in three counties following floods

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today announced his request for a Federal Disaster Declaration has been granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist West Virginians after extreme flooding on Thursday and Friday.
The declaration will provide individual assistance, which includes emergency medical support, housing and addresses a number of immediate needs, to residents in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. Damage assessments continue in many areas, including Clay, Fayette, Monroe, Ritchie, Summers and Webster counties, and additional requests may be submitted to FEMA.
“This federal support will provide much needed assistance to severely-impacted regions,” Governor Tomblin said. “As emergency response efforts continue, with members of the National Guard and local emergency responders hard at work helping our neighbors, we will continue pursuing additional assistance for all affected areas.”
FEMA teams will be working with state officials to evaluate the damage in the coming days and additional requests for federal assistance.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE .

►   Governor Tomblin Requests Federal Declaration in Response to WV Floods - Major Disaster Declaration would support individual assistance for affected counties

CHARLESTON, WV –  Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has requested a federal Major Disaster Declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide individual assistance for Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, which were severely affected by floods beginning June 23, 2016.

“We appreciate the support of FEMA and our congressional delegation as we work to provide assistance to affected families as quickly as possible,” Governor Tomblin said. “We realize many other counties experienced significant damage and we will be following up in those areas, but the scope of damage in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties allowed us to proceed with that request immediately. A federal Major Disaster Declaration would provide our residents with the support they need to rebuild and move forward.

Governor Tomblin made an expedited verbal request to FEMA this morning for individual assistance, which provides help to residents and families such as housing and crisis counseling.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE.

►   Murray Energy Strikes Five-Year Agreement with Coal Miner Union

America’s largest coal-mining company says it’s reached a tentative labor agreement with unionized miners.

Murray American Energy announced Friday a 5-year pact struck between the United Mine Workers of America and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, representing mine operators in Ohio and West Virginia.

The union plans a membership vote next week on the contract, which would run from June 30 through 2021.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray American and chairman of the association, said the agreement “will go a long way” in ensuring union employees are able to continue working “even in this very depressed coal marketplace.“

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said the “rapidly deteriorating status” of the U.S. coal industry required locking in the best terms and conditions six months before the current contract expires.


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement after touring damage in areas of West Virginia affected by extreme flooding including in Elkview, Clendenin, Craigsville, Richwood, Birch River and Camden on the Gauley.

“The flood waters have absolutely devastated 44 counties throughout West Virginia and Gayle and I are sending our prayers to the family and friends of those who we have lost, those missing and everyone impacted by this tragedy. I have toured the damage left by the flood waters in Elkview, Clendenin and surrounding areas and am working with Governor Tomblin, the entire West Virginia Delegation and the White House on assisting those affected. I urge all West Virginians to listen to local advisories, to stay safe and to contact my office at 304.342.5855 with concerns. If you need assistance, and if you are elderly, disabled or ill and cannot access water, please call the Emergency Operations Center at 304.746.8828.”

►   PGA Tour cancels Greenbrier Classic amid West Virginia flood

BETHESDA, MD — The PGA Tour announced Saturday that the Greenbrier Classic scheduled for next month has been canceled because of the devastating flooding in West Virginia.

The tournament had been scheduled for July 7-10 at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, which was inundated with floodwaters after heavy storms rolled into the state Thursday. Tour officials say the Old White TPC, the host course, suffered extensive damage and “is beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament.“

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said officials were heartbroken by the devastation in West Virginia and offered their thoughts and prayers.

“Canceling the Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation,“ Finchem said.

Greenbrier County claimed 15 of the 23 deaths attributed to the flooding.

This is the first time a PGA Tour event has been washed out since the Viking Classic in Madison, Mississippi, in 2009. Unplayable conditions also led to the cancellation of the 1996 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

More than 150 players had committed to playing the Greenbrier, which was set to follow the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. The PGA Tour is at Congressional this weekend for Tiger Woods’ Quicken Loans National.

The Greenbrier was supposed to be the final chance to qualify for the British Open at Royal Troon on July 14-17, with one spot available to the highest finisher who was not already eligible. Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations, said the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which runs the British Open, was deciding what to do with that spot.

One possibility is to award it to the Barracuda Championship, to be played next week opposite the WGC-Bridgestone.

At the Greenbrier, owner Jim Justice said the focus is on helping the people of West Virginia.

“So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go,“ Justice said. “All of us are united with only one common goal: to help the people through this terrible time.“

The Greenbrier Classic began in 2010. The PGA Tour is committed to holding the event through 2021.

“We know we will have the opportunity to return again next year, and we look forward to that time,“ Finchem said. “But for now, that is of secondary concern. The priority is safety of the residents and their recovery from this disaster.“

►   FEMA registration begins Sunday

CHARLESTON, WV — Flood victims in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas counties can apply for individual disaster assistance with FEMA beginning Sunday.

Application can be made either online at or by calling 1.800.621.FEMA (3362). The number will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Individual assisstance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs, FEMA said.

The disaster declaration also includes public assistance for the three counties. Governor Earl Tomblin is expected to seek assistance for other counties once damage assessments are completed.

In USA….

The Free Press WV

►   Dozens of Homes Burn in California Brush Fire

Dozens of homes burned to the ground as a wildfire raged over ridges and tore through rural communities in central California, authorities say. The streaking blaze that burned at least 80 homes and other buildings northeast of Bakersfield around Lake Isabella came just as many others across western states were calming, the AP reports. It broke out late Thursday afternoon amid heat in the 90s and single-digit humidity, climbing over at least three ridges into hillside neighborhoods, Kern County fire Capt. Tyler Townsend says.

No injuries were reported, but some homes are already little more than embers on the ground. “I’ve never been in a wildland fire where I’ve seen so many homes burn,“ Townsend says. “It’s one of the most devastating I’ve ever seen.“ The fire has burned over seven square miles, and about 1,500 homes are under threat. Several thousand people are under evacuation orders, but some are refusing to evacuate, says Townsend, who warns that many houses in the area have propane tanks, adding to the danger. Elsewhere in the state, cooler weather helped crews fighting two fires that burned more than 8 square miles of chaparral and brush in the Angeles National Forest and foothill communities northeast of Los Angeles.

►   10 years after housing peaked, U.S. is more of a renter nation

It’s a troublesome story playing out across America in the 10 years since the housing bubble peaked and then burst in a ruinous crash: As real estate has climbed back, homeowners are thriving while renters are struggling.

For many longtime owners, times are good. They’re enjoying the benefits of growing equity and reduced mortgage payments from ultra-low rates.

But for America’s growing class of renters, surging costs, stagnant pay and rising home values have made it next to impossible to save enough to buy.

The possible consequences are bleak for a nation already grappling with economic inequality: Whatever wealth most Americans possess mainly comes from home equity, meaning that the increase in renters gives fewer people that same level of financial security.

Nearly two-thirds of adults still own homes. And some who rent do so by choice. Yet ownership has become a more distant dream for the many Americans, as rental prices and demand has surged in areas that offer the best job prospects as well as those that have been battered by foreclosures.

“It doesn’t paint a pretty picture,“ said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, the online real estate database company. “You’re really blocking out a group of buyers from owning a home. They’re truly living paycheck to paycheck, and that does not put them into a good position to buy.“

Joe Fabie and his wife face just such a bind.

They moved to Mount Pleasant, just over the bridge from historic Charleston, South Carolina after law school in Pittsburgh. The suburb’s pastel-hued harbor vistas, tin-roofed houses and Spanish moss-adorned live oaks were enchanting.

But the rising rent on their one-bedroom apartment made it impossible to save enough to buy a home. So the couple moved to a cheaper suburb in hopes of saving for a starter home.

“The best school district is Mount Pleasant, and we would like to be there,“ said Fabie, 27. “But if you’re lucky you can get some beat-up homes for around $300,000.“

An exclusive analysis by The Associated Press of census data covering over 300 communities found that two major forces are driving a wedge between the fortunes of renters and homeowners:

—Historically low mortgage rates have enabled homeowners to refinance and shrink their monthly payments, thereby reducing a major household cost. The median annual mortgage expense for a U.S. homeowner has dropped by $1,492 since 2006.

—A combination of foreclosures and new college graduates crowding into the strongest job markets has raised demand for rentals. Renters accounted for all the 8 million-plus net households the United States added in the past decade. Home ownership has dipped to 63.5 percent, near a 48-year low.

That demand has driven up rents, which, in turn, have prevented or delayed people from buying first homes. Outside of a pocket of relative stability seen in parts of the Midwest such as Minneapolis and St. Louis, the momentum has moved away from ownership.

The residue of the housing bubble remains achingly visible in Las Vegas. Thousands of houses are stuck in the foreclosure pipeline, controlled by banks, and could flood the market should prices recover enough. Nearly half of Las Vegas now rents, compared with less than 40 percent a decade ago.

Consider the shift toward renting in Piedmont Park neighborhood of Apopka, a former agricultural hub outside of Orlando now crowded with housing developments.

Where one in 10 homes once was a rental, now more than a third are. Many are owned by Wall Street investment firms that bought them out of foreclosure at deep discounts.

Erika Pringley, a 42-year-old police dispatcher, rents with her husband a three-bedroom ranch house. Through a string of subsidiaries, the house is owned by Blackstone, the world’s largest real estate private equity group.

At that price paid by investors, the equivalent of the monthly mortgage would be under $500.

Pringley’s rent: $1,310 a month.

Pringley, who works for the Florida Highway Patrol, hopes to buy a home — if she can emerge from debt.

“At my age, I want to own something that’s my own, have something that’s my own,“ she said.

Higher rents are closing the path of accruing wealth through ownership. On average, homeowners have a net housing wealth of $150,506, according to figures soon to be released by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Center.

Elsewhere, rising prosperity is the reason why renters are stuck.

Just as the economy tanked nearly a decade ago, millennials began flooding the best job markets after college and graduate school where rents are disproportionately higher.

Over the past decade, the number of under-35 college graduates in Washington rocketed up more than 50 percent to nearly 100,000. Bistros, boutiques and posh apartments opened along the once-downtrodden 14th Street corridor.

All this has created a paradox in Washington: Incomes are rising — normally fuel for home buying — even as homeownership is declining.

Ultra-low mortgage rates below 4 percent have enabled Jim Phillips, 51, to capitalize on the influx, buying condos and renting them at a profit.

“With more and more younger people moving into the city, it’s creating an opportunity for me,“ Phillips said. “So far, I have two condos. My goal is to buy, basically, one a year.“

The opportunities are there for people who have money — or those who are already homeowners.

Alpana Patel and her husband landed a house in San Marcos, California, about 35 miles from San Diego, in 2007. To buy their $845,000 home, they took out an interest-only mortgage with an adjustable rate starting 6.7 percent. Including property taxes and insurance, their monthly costs totaled about $6,000.

The couple refinanced in 2013 at a rate of just 3.75 percent, which shrank their monthly payment by $2,000.

The couple eventually decided to rent out that house at a price that covers nearly all their mortgage costs and to buy a second, larger home where they could live.

“Now, we’re able to own two homes because we hung in there,“ Patel said.

►   Teens Fired After Girl Asks for Equal Pay

When Jensen Walcott and her good friend, Jake Reed, both got hired at Pizza Studio in Kansas City, Kansas, on the same day, the 17-year-olds were initially excited. Then Reed mentioned to Walcott that he’d be making $8.25 per hour. Walcott would only be making $8 per hour, even though she was hired for the same position and had the same degree of experience. Thinking there must have been a mix-up, she called her boss just an hour after being hired to ask about the wage discrepancy—and was promptly fired, she tells Fox 4 KC. Jensen says the manager told her it’s against company policy to discuss wages with co-workers, but both teens say that policy was never mentioned to them before the phone call. Reed was also fired.

“At face value it appears, that the young lady was terminated because she complained about unequal wages. That’s illegal,“ an attorney tells the station, adding that, per the National Labor Relations Board, it is perfectly fine for colleagues to discuss wages. He thinks Jensen may have a legal claim on her hands, but for now, Jensen just wants to bring some attention to what happened. Fox 4’s story came out last Friday, and the station noted that when it reached out to a corporate rep for Pizza Studio, he promised to investigate but never called the station back. Fox 4 hasn’t offered any updates since then, but the story got wide pickup this week, with many outlets decrying the fact that Walcott was apparently terminated for requesting to be paid as much as a male counterpart.

►   Man Admits to Lying About Escaping Auschwitz

A 91-year-old Pennsylvania man has admitted to lying for years about being an Auschwitz survivor, even going so far as to have an actual prisoner’s number tattooed on his arm, the AP reports. Joseph Hirt has lectured to numerous school groups and organizations about his experience escaping from Auschwitz. But Hirt’s story drew the suspicions of New York teacher Andrew Reid, who questioned his timeline of events, during a lecture in April, according to Penn Live. Reid’s investigation into Hirt turned into a 25-page report sent to any media outlet that had written about him and any organization that had hosted him. Hirt’s own nephew confirmed that Hirt made the whole thing up. He said Hirt’s family left Poland before Germany invaded.

While Hirt originally fought back against Reid’s claims, he delivered a letter of apology to Lancaster Online this week, asking for forgiveness. “I did not intend to lessen or overshadow the events which truly happened there by falsely claiming to have been personally involved,“ Hirt writes. He says he only lied about escaping Auschwitz as a “60-pound skeleton with skin” to “enhance the important truth of the suffering and death of so many.” “I used poor judgment and faulty reasoning,“ Hirt writes. Hirt says he was inspired by a visit to Auschwitz years after the end of WWII. “I determined at that moment to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of the truth about wartime life (and death) at Auschwitz,“ he writes.

►   Hawaii Will Put Gun Owners Into FBI Database

Hawaii has positioned itself on the leading edge of gun control after Governor David Ige signed a bill Thursday that would put the state’s gun owners into an FBI database, the AP reports. According to Hawaii News Now, Hawaiian gun owners will be entered in the “Rap Back” system, which will notify police if a Hawaiian gun owner is arrested anywhere in the country. Rap Back has been used for teachers, bus drivers, and others in “positions of trust” around the country, but this is the first time it’s been used for gun owners, Fox News reports. “This is about our community’s safety and responsible gun ownership,“ Hawaii News Now quotes Ige as saying. “This system will better enable our law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of all Hawaii residents and visitors to our islands.“

An attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence calls the bill “groundbreaking.“ But critics say gun owners shouldn’t be entered in a database just for exercising their constitutional rights. “This is an extremely dangerous bill,“ Fox quotes an NRA spokesperson as saying. “Exercising a constitutional right is not inherently suspicious.“ Ige signed two other gun-control bills Thursday. One bans stalkers and sexual abusers from owning guns. Another allows police to take guns away from someone disqualified from owning them due to mental health issues.

In The World….

The Free Press WV

►   Pope to Armenians: Never forget the genocide, but reconcile

YEREVAN, Armenia — The world should never forget or minimize the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians, Pope Francis declared Saturday even as he urged Armenians to infuse their collective memory with love so they can find peace and reconcile with Turkey.

Turkey, though, didn’t budge. In its first reaction to Francis’ recognition of the 1915 “genocide,“ Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli called the comments “greatly unfortunate” and said they bore the hallmarks of the “mentality of the Crusades.“

Francis began his second day in Armenia by paying his respects at the country’s imposing genocide memorial and greeting descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacres, who have been emboldened by his comments upon arrival that the slaughter of Armenians a century ago was a planned “genocide” meant to annihilate an entire people.

Francis presented a wreath at the memorial and stood, head bowed, in silent prayer before an eternal flame as priests blessed him with incense and a choir sang haunting hymns.

“Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good,“ Francis wrote in the memorial’s guest book. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.“

Francis also greeted descendants of the 400 or so Armenian orphans taken in by Popes Benedict XV and Pius XI at the papal summer residence south of Rome in the 1920s. Also approaching Francis was Sosi Habeschyan, 68, and her sister; their mother was a genocide orphan adopted and raised by Danish missionary Maria Jacobsen, who worked in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and wrote about the massacre.

“A blessing has come down on the land of Mt. Ararat,“ said Andzhela Adzhemyan, a 35-year old refugee from Syria who was a guest at the memorial. “He has given us the strength and confidence to keep our Christian faith no matter what.“

Francis returned to the theme of memory during a Mass in Gyumri, where several thousand people gathered in a square for his only public Catholic Mass of his three-day visit to Armenia. Nestled in the rolling green hills and wildflower fields of northwestern Armenia, Gyumri has long been a cradle of Christianity, and Francis came to pay homage to its faith even in times of trial.

“Peoples, like individuals, have a memory,“ he told the crowd from the altar. “Your own people’s memory is ancient and precious.“

Francis again raised the importance of memory at an evening prayer in Yerevan’s Republic Square, which drew the largest crowds of his visit, some 50,000 according to Vatican estimates. With the patriarch of the Apostolic Church, Karekin II, by his side and President Serzh Sargsyan in the front row, Francis said even the greatest pain “can become a seed of peace for the future.“

“Memory, infused with love, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation, where hope arises for a better future for everyone,“ he said.

He specifically called for Armenia and Turkey to take up the “path of reconciliation” and said: “May peace also spring forth in Nagorno-Karabakh.“

The Vatican has long held up the landlocked nation of 3 million mostly Orthodox Christians as a bastion of faith and martyrdom in a largely Muslim region and the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301.

“We were saved by the Christian faith, which in the years of the genocide helped our grandfathers and great-grandfathers,“ 38-year-old Vardui Simonyan, a granddaughter of genocide survivors, said after the pope’s visit to the genocide memorial. “The fact that one of the main people in Christendom is with us is inspiring.“

Upon his arrival Friday in the capital, Yerevan, Francis added the politically charged word “genocide” to his prepared text, listing the 1915 Armenian genocide alongside the Holocaust and Stalinism as the three great mass slaughters of the 20th century.

Turkey rejects the term, saying the 1.5 million deaths cited by historians is an inflated figure and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman Empire collapsed amid World War I. When Francis first used it last year, Turkey withdrew its ambassador for 10 months and accused Francis of spreading lies.

On Saturday, the deputy prime minister, Canikli, said the term “does not comply with the truth.“

“Everyone knows that. We all know it, the whole world knows it, and so do the Armenians,“ he added.

In a largely Orthodox land where Catholics are a minority, Armenians have seemed genuinely honored to welcome a pope who has long championed the Armenian cause from his time as an archbishop in Argentina and now as leader of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church.

“We have the memory of the genocide in our genes,“ said 45-year-old Alexander Rubenyan from Yerevan. “It used to be a gene of sadness, but with every visit of people like the pope the Armenian gene is becoming more alive and full of optimism.“

►   Zoo Closing After 140 Years to Give Its Animals a Better Life

The Buenos Aires zoo, one of the city’s major tourist attractions, will be shutting down after 140 years to give its animal residents a shot at a better life, the Guardian reports. According to the BBC, the zoo had come under fire in recent years over the condition of its animals and infrastructure. Of particular concern was the suffering of the zoo’s polar bears during Buenos Aires’ sweltering summers. The zoo’s last remaining polar bear, Winner, died in part because of hot temperatures and poor conditions. And while the zoo was originally built on the edge of Buenos Aires, the city had grown around it, putting animals in close proximity to buildings and busy streets, the AP reports.

“This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them,” Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said during a ceremony Thursday, per the Guardian. Most of the zoo’s animals—sources have them numbering between 1,500 and 2,500—will be moved to animal sanctuaries in Argentina and elsewhere. About 50 animals too old or sick to move will stay behind, though not on public display. Among those animals is Sandra the orangutan, who made news two years ago when a court gave her rights as a “non-human person.“ The 44-acre zoo will be transformed into an ecological park that will promote conservation and rehabilitate animals rescued from illegal trafficking.

►   What the UK’s Late-Night Brexit Googling Reveals

So the United Kingdom voted for Brexit, PM David Cameron announced his resignation, and scores of people starting frenetically Googling “What happens if we leave the EU?“—just a few hours after they already voted en masse to do so, the Verge reports. Google Trends tweeted there was a 250% spike in just one hour for that search term after the polls had closed. And Friday morning, even more confused people didn’t seem to understand what had gone down the day before, with Google Trends reporting a 2,450% spike in the somewhat panicked “Are we in or out of the EU?“ Other after-the-fact queries that saw a boost included: “What happens to foreigners if we leave the EU?,“ “What happens if we stay in the EU?,“ and the search term that Ars Technica dubs to be perhaps the most worrisome: “What is Brexit?“

All of this leads the Verge to ponder why such a “wildly complex” issue of the UK defecting from the EU was left to a people’s referendum instead of in the hands of “independent experts” who may have had a better grasp on the issues. “Referendums are a brute-force political engine, a numbers game designed to spit out a yes or no answer on a simple question,“ the site notes. But UK residents had apparently “had enough of experts"—at least according to the country’s justice minister, Michael Gove, who had recently made controversial comments comparing pro-EU economists to Nazi sympathizers, per the Guardian. At least some UK citizens seem to have wrapped their head around what the Brexit vote could mean for them: The search term “getting an Irish passport” jumped 100% Friday morning—although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, Ireland proper is independent of it.

Governor Tomblin Issues Statement on Flooding Response Effort

Damage extensive in parts of state
The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said today that state and local emergency officials are working to ensure the safety of residents across the state.

“The flooding we experienced Thursday and into today is among the worst in a century for some parts of the state,” Governor Tomblin said. “Our team in the Emergency Operations Center worked through the night and continues to coordinate efforts with local officials today.

“On Thursday evening I declared a State of Emergency for 44 counties, including all but the Northern and Eastern Panhandles. I have authorized the deployment of up to 150 members of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders as we continue to evaluate the situation today.

“We understand many counties continue to experience significant problems and some waters continue to rise. Joanne and I are thinking continually about those affected by this disaster, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones. I appreciate the tireless efforts of first responders across the state, many of whom have volunteered to travel long distances to help those in the most affected areas.”

A State of Emergency declaration does not restrict travel or mandate the closing of businesses. In addition, a State of Emergency declaration does not mean the state will receive federal assistance.

West Virginians needing assistance should contact their local offices of emergency management. Contact information for each county office can be found HERE .

To read the proclamation in its entirety, click HERE .

G-Eye™: WV State Folk Festival Parade 2016

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