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Governor Tomblin Announces STOP Violence Against Women Act Program Grants

The Gilmer Free Press

More than $1.1 million in grant funding to support 28 projects statewide

CHARLESTON, WV – Governor Earl Ray Tomblin today announced $1,169,840 in grant funding to support  the STOP Violence Against Women Grant Program for 28 projects statewide.  

The purpose the grant program is to establish or enhance teams whose core members include victim service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors to improve the criminal justice system’s response to violence against women. Grants provide personnel, training and technical assistance for the establishment or enhancement of these teams. Additionally, statewide projects are funded to provide training and information systems for all victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and court personnel throughout the state.

“Today’s grant funding demonstrates our continued commitment to putting a stop to domestic violence in West Virginia,” Governor Tomblin said. “The recipients of this year’s funding have dedicated their time, service and efforts to help women and children in need. It is my hope that this funding will strengthen and grow their efforts now and for years to come.”

STOP funds are awarded from the Office of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The funds are administered by the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services.

Grant funding was allocated as follows:

CABELL
Branches Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc.
$59,395
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Cabell County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office, Branches Domestic Violence Shelter, CONTACT of Huntington, and the Huntington Police Department.


CALHOUN
Family Crisis Intervention Center of Region V, Inc.
$21,451
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Calhoun County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Crisis Intervention Center, and the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department.


FAYETTE
Comprehensive Women’s Service Council, Inc.
$42,554
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Fayette County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office, the Comprehensive Women’s Service Council, and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department.


GRANT 
Family Crisis Center, Inc.
$19,335
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Grant County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Grant County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Crisis Center, and the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.


GREENBRIER
Family Refuge Center
$57,384
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Greenbrier County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Greenbrier County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Refuge Center, the Lewisburg Police Department, and the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department.


HARRISON
Task Force on Domestic Violence, “HOPE, Inc.“
$45,659
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Harrison County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Task Force on Domestic Violence “HOPE, Inc. Program, the Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office, the Bridgeport Police Department and the Clarksburg Police Department.


KANAWHA
Kanawha County Commission
$68,345
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Kanawha County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office, the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program, the Family Counseling Connection – REACH Program, Beginning My Empowerment Thru Emmanuel’s Kingdom (BEMEEK) Outreach Program, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department, and the Charleston Police Department.


LOGAN
Tug Valley Recovery Shelter
$35,080
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Logan County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Logan County Prosecutor’s Office, the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter, and the Logan County Sheriff’s Department.


MARION
Task Force on Domestic violence, HOPE, Inc.
$60,403
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Marion County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Task Force on Domestic Violence, “HOPE, Inc.“, the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, and the Fairmont Police Department.


MARSHALL
Marshall County Commission
$27,346
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Marshall County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office, the YWCA Family Violence Prevention Program, and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.


MINERAL 
Family Crisis Center, Inc.
$19,335
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Mineral County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Mineral County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Crisis Center, and the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department.


MINGO 
Tug Valley Recovery Shelter
$42,490
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Mingo County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Mingo County Prosecutor’s Office, the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter, and the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department.


MONONGALIA
The Rape & Domestic Violence Information Center, Inc.
$55,028
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Monongalia County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Monongalia County Prosecutor’s Office, the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center, the Morgantown Police Department, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, and the Star City Police Department.


MONROE
Family Refuge Center
$24,392
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Monroe County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Refuge Center, and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.


NICHOLAS
Comprehensive Women’s Service Council, Inc.
$40,732
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Nicholas County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Nicholas County Prosecutor’s Office, the Comprehensive Women’s Service Council and the Nicholas County Sheriff’s Department.


OHIO 
Ohio County Commission
$83,314
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Ohio County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office, the YWCA Family Violence Prevention Program, the YWCA Cultural Diversity and Community Outreach Program, and the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department.


POCAHONTAS 
Family Refuge Center
$8,201
These funds provide for the enhancement of the Pocahontas County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Pocahontas County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Refuge Center and the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department.


PRESTON 
The Rape & Domestic Violence Information Center, Inc.
$35,789
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Preston County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Preston County Prosecutor’s Office, the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center, and the Preston County Sheriff’s Department.


PUTNAM
Putnam County Commission
$26,508
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Putnam County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Putnam County Prosecutor’s Office, Branches Domestic Violence Shelter, the Family Counseling Connection - REACH Program, and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department.


RALEIGH
Comprehensive Women’s Service Council, Inc.
$68,004
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Raleigh County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Raleigh County Prosecutor’s Office, the Comprehensive Women’s Service Council, and the Beckley Police Department.


RANDOLPH 
Women’s Aid in Crisis
 $16,767
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Randolph County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Randolph County Prosecutor’s Office, Women’s Aid in Crisis, and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department.


ROANE 
Family Crisis Intervention Center of Region V, Inc.
$19,050
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Roane County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Roane County Prosecutor’s Office, the Family Crisis Intervention Center, the Spencer Police Department, and the Roane County Sheriff’s Department.


UPSHUR 
Upshur County Commission
$30,700
These funds provide for the enhancement and the continuation of the Upshur County STOP Team to improve the criminal justice system’s response to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  The core team includes the Upshur County Prosecutor’s Office, Women’s Aid in Crisis, and the Buckhannon Police Department.


STATEWIDE
West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
$43,770
These funds provide for the continued enhancement of the statewide domestic and sexual violence database, and to provide training and technical assistance for STOP Teams and STOP VAWA Programs on cultural diversity and cultural competency.


West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute
$39,284
These funds provide for the development and continuation of strengthening prosecution strategies and best practices as well as improve prosecution-based victim services in cases involving violence against women through training and the development of resources.


West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
$57,088
These funds provide for updating the Domestic Violence Benchbook, to provide the salary of a DV Case Coordinator for the  pilot program of the Kanawha County Domestic Violence Court, to maintain the Domestic Violence Registry backup Internet site, and to provide continued training for court personnel in the area of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.


West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services
$58,315
These funds provide for building the capacity of the State’s Rape Crisis Centers to collaborate with participating correctional facilities in the state which include the Division of Corrections, Regional Jails, Division of Juvenile Services and federal facilities for service provision and in order to work towards compliance with PREA requirements.


West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services
$64,121
These funds provide for training activities, the ongoing development and capacity building of service providers to victims of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking crimes, and to provide training and resources for these programs in order to provide services to sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking victims.

07.07.2015
CommunityCalhoun CountyHarrison CountyNicholas CountyRoane CountyUpshur CountyNewsWest VirginiaPolitics | Government | ElectionState-WV(1) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Nice thought. Here’s another. 
Governor, we need this program:

“Stop Educators Insolence Against Intervention Counties Program”

Its time for the WVBE to end the adversarial treatment of intervention counties and become partners instead.

Its time to work with local school boards instead of working against them.

Its time to end management by bullying.  It can be done.  The dictatorial we know more than you do approach doesn’t seem to be working in any county very well, does it?

By Time to be Partners~What say you?  on  07.07.2015

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All WV’s “Next Gen” Standards Will Be Available to Read Online This Week

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — All of West Virginia’s next generation education standards will be available for the public to read online beginning Wednesday, July 08, 2015.

“This is our attempt, and my direct attempt, to get that feedback and make our standards strong for our students so that we can move our educational system forward to ensure young people get a great education in West Virginia,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano during an interview with the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network.

Dr. Martirano hopes that this act of transparency, which he’s calling a state-wide town hall, will help alleviate concerns about the standards.

“Regardless of whether they are Common Core or Next Gen, what I want individuals in our state to understand–our educational community and all of our citizens–is that we need to have solid standards for our young people.”

Dr. Martirano said Next Gen standards will focus on helping students in West Virginia move on to college and careers afterwards. According to Dr. Martirano, these standards have already shown improvement over older standards–citing West Virginia’s low rankings in Language Arts under the old standards.

“I need to ensure as the Chief Academic Officer of our state that there are standards that are going to prepare young people for careers and college,” he said.

When asked about comments made by Common Core critic Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Martirano expressed that he is open-minded, but disagrees with many of the comments Dr. Stotsky has made.

“I definitely disagree with some of the comments that she’s made because our standards need to make certain that they’re strong for our children in West Virginia to prepare them for college and careers,” he said.

Test results under the Next Gen standards are expected back in August, and Dr. Martirano hopes those results will play a pivotal role in continuing to guide positive change for school systems in the state.

“We talk about multiple measures,” he said. “It’s not just one test result, but a variety of different results that will be used to improve the delivery of young people. This is all student-centered to help young people learn.”

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:


GREEK PREMIER RACES TO RESTART TALKS AFTER VOTE WIN

Alexis Tsipras faces intense pressure from creditors abroad and banks at home who all demand what Greece lacks: money.


TALKS WITH IRAN CONTINUE PAST THEIR DEADLINE, AND AGREEMENT STILL SEEMS ELUSIVE

The delays are casting doubt on the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to a bomb through diplomacy.


WHO COULD BENEFIT FROM COSBY’S DRUGS-SEX ADMISSION

Defamation claims lodged by his accusers could be bolstered, lawyers say, after it emerges the comedian admitted, in a 2005 deposition the AP went to court to get released, that he obtained Quaaludes to give young women for sex.


WHAT POPE PLANS TO DO ON FINAL ECUADOR DAY

The pontiff’s agenda features a Mass in the capital sandwiched between meetings with bishops, indigenous groups and students and a visit to a Jesuit church.


WHY ISRAEL IS ALARMED OVER ACTIVISTS

The BDS movement, calling for a global boycott campaign against the Jewish state, is gaining momentum and has been identified by the country as a threat on a par with the Iranian nuclear program.


SOUTH CAROLINA MOVES TO PULL DOWN CONFEDERATE FLAG

The state Senate votes to remove the divisive banner from the Capitol grounds. Now it’s up the House to consider the matter.


ICE CAVES IN NORTHWEST ARE POPULAR WITH HIKERS, BUT CAN BE DANGEROUS

A string of them northeast of Seattle partially collapsed, killing one person and leaving at least four other injured.


BATTLE FOR CONTROL OF BREAST MILK INDUSTRY

States are now seeking to regulate it amid a struggle for control between nonprofit and for-profit banks that supply hospital neonatal units.


WORLD’S OLDEST MAN DIES

Sakari Momoi, a retired educator from Japan, passes away from kidney failure at the age of 112.


FANS PREPARING FOR TESTY ENCOUNTER IN WIMBLEDON QUARTERFINALS

Serena Williams takes on Victoria Azarenka again, hoping to keep up her dominance against a player she considers a friend off the court.

Contractors: Surveys Most Accurate Way to Set West Virginia Prevailing Wage

The Gilmer Free Press

WHEELING, WV – West Virginia’s prevailing wage should be determined using in-state surveys instead of federal estimates, according to some contractors. The wage law was changed this spring.

Republican lawmakers say the state should now use Bureau of Labor Statistics figures to determine how much to pay construction workers on public projects.

Glenn Jeffries, president of Cornerstone Interiors, just finished a WorkForce West Virginia wage survey. He says the state survey uses actual wage numbers, unlike the more general federal statistics, which are based on a statistical sample. Jeffries adds the federal numbers don’t allow for benefits.

“I’m not going to say they’re inaccurate, but they don’t give you the true construction wage,“ he says. “The survey will give you the true wages that are being paid.“

The Legislature and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration disagree over whether the new law requires using federal wage rates or allows the state to use the survey data. Republican lawmakers say a prevailing wage based on lower federal numbers could reduce building costs on public projects. But several studies have found it could lower quality and raise costs, in part by forcing contractors to cut corners on steps like training and drug testing.

Contractor Kim Carfagna, president and CEO of Jarvis, Downing and Emch in Wheeling, says GOP lawmakers are giving the impression wages are too high. He says they’re assuming a construction worker can put in more than 2,000 hours a year – as a regular full-time employee might. But Carfagna says due to weather and irregular employment, they’re lucky to work half that.

“If you take the Bureau of Labor Statistics rates and multiply it times those hours, you’re putting every one of those craftsmen, basically, below the poverty level,“ he says.

Thirty-one of 32 states with a prevailing wage use the survey method. The head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics even testified in Congress its figures should not be used to set wages.

A report by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy found when quality and productivity are factored in, prevailing-wage work in the state costs less than non-prevailing-wage work in neighboring states.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

West Virginia News

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two utilities seek change in WV rate calculation policy

CHARLESTON, WV — Two utilities are seeking a change in the way state regulators determine the rates that customers pay.

West Virginia American Water and Mountaineer Gas have asked the Public Service Commission to base rate calculations on a future year’s projected spending and income.

Under a long-standing policy, the PSC reviews a utility’s spending and income for the year prior to a rate case being filed.

The Charleston Gazette reports that the utilities requested the change in separate rate cases.

John Tomac with West Virginia American Water says the current system doesn’t give companies an opportunity to gain a fair rate of return.

The PSC’s staff and Consumer Advocate Division oppose the proposed change. Consumer Advocate director Jacqueline Roberts says the companies want the money before they spend it.


WV Wesleyan hosts Governor’s School for the Arts

BUCKHANNON, WV — More than 100 high school juniors are participating in the Governor’s School for the Arts at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

The school began on Sunday and runs through July 25. It includes master classes, studio time and private instruction in acting/theatre, creative writing, dance, digital media, instrumental music and other arts.

Students also will attend a Greenbrier Valley Theatre performance in Lewisburg, blues night at the Augusta Festival in Elkins and two Festival Fridays in Buckhannon.

The program also includes performances by the West Virginia Dance Company, the James Moore Jazz trio and other outside acts.


Hearings set on proposed WV environmental rule revisions

CHARLESTON, WV — State regulators are holding public hearings this month on proposed revisions to environmental rules.

The first hearing is set for Monday on seven proposed Division of Air Quality rules. The rules include emission standards for hazardous air pollutants.

A July 21 hearing will be held on a water quality rule. Another hearing on July 23 focuses on rules governing horizontal well development.

Public comment on a surface mining reclamation rule will be taken at a July 24 hearing. The hearing also includes proposed administrative proceedings and civil penalty assessment for coal mining facilities.

A hearing on an aboveground storage tanks rule will be held July 30.

All of the hearings will be held at the Department of Environmental Protection’s headquarters in Charleston, beginning at 6 PM.


WV AG to host meeting on new waterways rule

CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will join several state organizations to host a town hall meeting in Putnam County to discuss the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule regulating local waterways and his office’s legal challenge to it.

The town hall meeting is set for 7 PM Tuesday, July 07, at the Putnam County Courthouse, 12093 Winfield Road, in Winfield. It is open to the public.

Several local business leaders and representatives from the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Virginia, Contractors Association of West Virginia, West Virginia Business and Industry Council, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Coal Association, West Virginia Farm Bureau and West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association will be on hand to discuss the potential effects this rule could have on local landowners.

“This unlawful EPA rule will have dire consequences for homeowners, farmers and other landowners, and we want to make sure the public is aware of its effects,“ Morrisey said in a news release. “This town hall will be a great opportunity for business leaders to share their concerns and for the public to ask questions and learn about this very important issue and how it could affect them.“

Morrisey announced last week his office is leading a bipartisan coalition of nine states in challenging the rule. Known generally as the “Waters of the United States” rule, the rule would extend the EPA and Corps of Engineers’ regulatory jurisdiction to an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches and short-lived streams or any other area where the agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years.

For more information or to RSVP, e-mail or call 304.558.2021.


Two Buckhannon residents convicted of methamphetamine trafficking

CLARKSBURG, WV — Two Upshur County residents have been convicted of methamphetamine trafficking.

Arwen Tinuviel Palmer, 35, and Dustin Lynn Phillips, 33, both of Buckhannon, each possessed and distributed methamphetamine in Upshur County throughout 2014.

Both defendants pleaded guilty Monday to one count of Aiding and Abetting the Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and each face up to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $1,000,000.

The Upshur County Sheriff’s Office and the Mountain Region Drug and Violent Crime Task Force led the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Warner prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Kaull presided.


USDA cites West Virginia zoo for handling of tiger cubs

CHARLESTON, WV - Inspectors say a West Virginia zoo used tiger cubs in photoshoots without properly feeding or vaccinating them.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service report said Kingwood’s Hovatters Wildlife Zoo took cubs from their mother at birth and displayed them behind the gift shop counter at two to three weeks old.

It said the zoo used cubs for photoshoots at two-and-a-half weeks old without vaccinations.

Inspectors said the supplement fed to the cubs for one day isn’t proven to provide immune protection. Cubs are also fed formula.

It says the zoo adds meat to the formula at 14 to 16 weeks old. The industry standard is two to three weeks.

Owner Bryan Hovatter said the zoo stopped using the cubs in photoshoots until they were vaccinated.

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SETTLEMENT IN DOLLAR TREE, FAMILY DOLLAR ACQUISITION

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today announced his Office has reached a settlement in its investigation of the acquisition of Family Dollar stores by Dollar Tree, an acquisition that combines two of the nation’s largest deep-discount retail chains.

Dollar Tree has entered into a consent order with West Virginia and 16 other states following their review of the proposed acquisition.

Working with the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General Morrisey and the state Attorneys General are requiring Dollar Tree to sell 330 Family Dollar stores to a new competitor in order to complete the acquisition. All of the affected stores are to be sold and re-branded as DollarExpress stores, a new chain of deep-discount stores being launched by Sycamore Partners.

“After this merger was announced, our Office heard from several consumers around the state about its potential effects,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Deep-discount ‘dollar’ stores are a vital part of our state’s retail economy and I want to make sure these stores continue to be competitive and offer the best prices and merchandise possible to West Virginians. These two companies currently have 150 stores located in the state, serving a large number of residents in both small towns and our larger cities.”

Dollar Tree stores typically price all merchandise at $1 or less while Family Dollar stores offer additional merchandise for higher prices. The stores tend to be smaller in size than “big box” stores and are often located within or near neighborhoods.

Of particular focus was the merger’s effect in the Huntington market, where the Fifth Avenue Family Dollar store is located just two blocks from a Dollar Tree store. Attorney General Morrisey was concerned the merger could substantially lessen competition in the area and give Dollar Tree the ability to raise prices at the Family Dollar store. As part of the settlement agreement, that Family Dollar store will be sold to DollarExpress, introducing a new competitor to the marketplace.

Attorney General Morrisey’s Office worked with the Federal Trade Commission and the other Attorneys General to conduct a national review of the transaction. The Attorneys General filed their lawsuit and proposed consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Sycamore Partners is expected to acquire the stores being divested over the coming months and operate them under its DollarExpress banner.

U.S.A. News

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California cancer patient with amnesia faces identity crisis

SAN DIEGO, CA— A woman with amnesia who has been undergoing cancer treatments since she was found semiconscious in Southern California has turned to social media and law enforcement as she struggles to rekindle memory of her own identity and any family she may have.

Sam, as she is known, is white, about 50 years of age and speaks French and English with a British or Australian accent, according to police reports.

She was hospitalized after being found on a street near the beach in Carlsbad, California, about 30 miles north of San Diego, on February 1.

“The amnesia I have is called retro amnesia, and doctors have said they have seen this before with the kind of antibodies from the volleyball-sized tumor that was on my ovary,“ she wrote on her Facebook page. 

“I have been getting chemotherapy treatments, and have lost all of my hair ... My prognosis is not good, and I pray my family will be found soon.“

She said she has dreams of New South Wales and Perth in Australia, but also has flashes of memory of being in Hawaii.

Her story has been shared more than 72,000 times on Facebook, with people from around the world picking up the thread and circulating it to others.

She has also been interviewed on local television, her information shared with the FBI and the international law enforcement agency Interpol, whose missing person’s bulletin for Sam shows a woman with shoulder-length white hair propped up in a hospital bed facing the camera. The FBI confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that Sam’s Facebook page is authentic and that her story is credible.

She has been moved from the hospital to an assisted-living center in a neighboring city. Her story has been picked up by Australian news media, and Sam told a local television affiliate of NBC that her faith in God and her new community of friends are sustaining her.

“I’m hoping that someone sees me, or this (referring to the NBC story), or something on the Internet, and my family immediately says, ‘There she is! There she is!‘“ she told the NBC affiliate earlier this week.


Senate advances secret plan forcing Internet services to report terror activity

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate Intelligence Committee secretly voted on June 24 in favor of legislation requiring e-mail providers and social media sites to report suspected terrorist activities.

The legislation, approved 15-0 in a closed-door hearing, remains “classified.“ The relevant text is contained in the 2016 intelligence authorization, a committee aide told Ars by telephone early Monday. Its veil of secrecy would be lifted in the coming days as the package heads to the Senate floor, the aide added.

The proposal comes as the Islamic State and other terror groups have taken to the Internet to gain converts across the globe, including in the United States. The FBI issued a public warning in March about American teens being susceptible to the Islamic State’s online recruitment tactics. And the Brookings Institute estimated in March that there were as many as 70,000 pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts. Twitter has removed tens of thousands of these terror propaganda accounts, which violate its terms of service.

“Our nation is facing more threats every day. America’s security depends on our intelligence community’s ability to detect and thwart attacks on the homeland, our personnel and interests overseas, and our allies. This year’s legislation arms the intelligence community with the resources they need and reinforces congressional oversight of intelligence activities,“ Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican of North Carolina, said in a statement about the bill that was privately approved by the committee.

The legislation is modeled after a 2008 law, the Protect Our Children Act. That measure requires Internet companies to report images of child porn, and information identifying who trades it, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That quasi-government agency the FBI or local law enforcement about the identities of online child pornographers.

The bill, which does not demand that online companies remove content, requires Internet firms that obtain actual knowledge of any terrorist activity to “provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity,“ wrote The Washington Post, which was able to obtain a few lines of the bill text. The terrorist activity could be a tweet, a YouTube video, an account, or a communication.

Twitter, Google, and Facebook haven’t publicly taken a position on the new legislation.

World News

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No sweat? Colombia turns to lie detectors to tackle government graft

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA—Colombia’s government plans to carry out lie detector tests on senior civil servants who allocate contracts to private companies as it tries to clamp down on widespread corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

Polygraphy will be used initially to test executives in the 72 government departments that have so far signed up to a transparency pact. The executives will be tested before and after concluding contracts for provision of goods and services to the government.

The Andean country’s vice president, German Vargas Lleras, is promoting the lie detector tests as a means of boosting investor confidence as the government allocates contracts to upgrade the national road network, estimated to cost more than $20 billion.

In one of Colombia’s most shocking public corruption scandals of the past decade, a family with links to a former mayor of the capital, Bogota, made off with up to $1 billion after the family’s company won contracts it barely executed, claiming it ran out of cash.

In 2014, Colombia was ranked 94th out of 174 countries for severity of corruption in a listing compiled by Transparency International.

Florida Residents Visit Monster Chair

Gassaway, WV - 14 -year-old Florida resident and monster enthusiast, Sarah Scott, visited the Braxton County Monster chair, located in Gassaway on Sunday, June 28th. Sarah, along with her mother, Brenda, and sister Hannah, made a detour on their way to Terra Alta to visit the chair.

Sarah is a long-time fan of the Braxton County Monster, other cryptid creatures, as well as SciFi movies and TV shows. Sarah’s love of monsters has inspired her to begin making terracotta clay medallions that feature the Braxton County Monster as well as the Moth Man from Point Pleasant. These medallions can be used in many ways: as a necklace charm, a Christmas tree ornament, or a key ring. The original intended purpose is to use them as an essential oil diffuser.

The Gilmer Free Press


By adding two or three drops of oil to the medallion it becomes an enjoyable air freshener able to hold any fragrance you wish. When asked why she chose to start crafting these items she said, “My hope is that through my handcrafted art I can create more awareness of the Braxton County Monster and other West Virginia cryptids and give kids and adults like me the opportunity to own and carry around a piece of Braxton County wherever they go! “ These West Virginia monster themed items can be viewed or purchased from Sarah’s Etsy store at KelpieNest.Etsy.com.

Sarah’s early interest in Dinosaurs lead her into the interesting world of cryptozoology, which is the study of creatures not yet classified by science. The Braxton County Monster and Moth Man are both examples of cryptozoological creatures and are among her favorite creatures to study as they originated in her favorite place in the world, West Virginia.

The Braxton County Monster Chairs project, started by the Braxton County CVB; who enlisted the help of woodworker Allan Johnson, to built these large chairs and place them around Braxton County. To date two chairs have been built and placed, one in Gassaway and one in Sutton. The Braxton County CVB is working to secure several exciting new locations for these chairs. When visiting the chairs be sure to “Check In” and share your pictures on Facebook.

Two Year College? or Four Year?

What’s Wrong with Going to a Community College?
How Two-Year Colleges Can Be Better Than Four-Year Universities

The Gilmer Free Press

The United States is largely segregated along education lines. Those who went to college usually know mostly other people who went to college, so they tend to think their experience is universal. Yet only three in ten Americans age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree.

Too often and for too many Americans, the word “college” means a four-year degree. The two-year degree gets a bad rap, and so do the community colleges that offer them.

That’s especially the case among politicians and parents who themselves hold bachelor’s degrees. In their minds, the four-year degree is the only route to a respectable and rewarding career.

It’s unfortunate that community colleges suffer from such a negative stereotype because so many people who end up going to a four-year college—and usually end up dropping out—would be much better off starting or even finishing at a two-year college.

For one, small first-year classes and low cost of community colleges allow students to explore careers before committing to a major at a four-year school, all while they earn valuable credits. Community colleges could also be an end in and of themselves. Only 17% of community-college students end up earning a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting school.

Secondly, in some cases, a two-year degree pays off more than if students went on to get a bachelor’s degree. In Virginia, for example, graduates with an associate’s degree in technical fields earn around $40,000 annually right out of school, more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.

Thirdly, community colleges are the gateway to the jobs of tomorrow that can’t be easily automated by robots. Most of those are “middle-skills jobs,” positions that demand more than a high-school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. There are roughly 29 million of these jobs today. Some 11 million of them pay $50,000 or more a year, and 4 million pay $75,000 or more, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Despite the demand, a lot of these jobs in advanced manufacturing, health care, and information technology remain open because employers can’t find qualified candidates with enough education to fill them.

Take repairing a John Deere tractor. When Andy Winnett started repairing tractors for a John Deere dealer in 1977, all he needed was a toolbox. “Today your toolbox is a computer,” says Winnett, who now directs the John Deere technology program at Walla Walla Community College in Washington state. John Deere partners with several community colleges around the country to train technicians for its dealer network.

About 15 to 20 students come through the program each semester, which graduates students in two years. Because they are sponsored by a John Deere dealer, where the students work for half the program, most graduate with a job in hand. On average, a technician can start earning between $31,000 and $39,000 a year plus bonuses.

But as Winnett explained to me during a visit to Walla Walla earlier this year, students need “both brawn and brains” for these jobs today, he said, as he looked at a lineup of the iconic green John Deere tractors outside his office on the Walla Walla campus. “There’s at least $1.1 million in equipment here,” he added. John Deere tractors have at least 24 computers embedded in them, mostly focused on emissions.

Most of the students who struggle or can’t make it in the program, he said, lack the critical math and comprehension skills to succeed. Jobs like the ones John Deere offer are still associated with students who performed poorly in high school. But the students I found at Walla Walla easily had the academic credentials to get into a four-year college, they’d just rather be here to work with their hands.

One of them, Oscar Tapia, a 19-year-old from Bakersfield, California, told me he had plans to go to a four-year college for an engineering degree, but changed his mind when he heard about the John Deere program at a diesel mechanic class while a junior in high school. After he graduates from Walla Walla, he plans to work for the dealer sponsoring him in Bakersfield. Still, he hasn’t ruled out getting that four-year engineering degree some day. “I want to show John Deere engineers how to design a better tractor,” he said.

Walla Walla is a great example of what a community college should be. It was forced to become an engine of economic development a decade ago after the local agricultural, food processing, and lumber industries started to decline and unemployed workers arrived at the college searching for retraining opportunities.

“We looked at what we were doing, and it wasn’t good enough for a community that needed our help,” said Steven L. VanAusdle, the college’s president “That was a turning point for us, a wake-up call.”

Now, the college of some 10,000 students offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs, with about 60% of them in workforce and technical areas. One of the most competitive is a degree in enology and viticulture. When the college started it in 2000, the region had just 16 wineries. Today, there are nearly 200 local wineries, and they have spawned a vast hospitality sector in the region.

Perhaps attitudes nationwide are beginning to change about community colleges. Students and parents who have a wide variety of choices about where to go to college are increasingly landing at two-year schools. Some 25% of students from households earning $100,000 or more now attend community colleges, up from 12% just five years ago, according to an annual survey by Sallie Mae.

We always hear about the predictions that the U.S. will face a shortage of computer scientists and engineers in the decade ahead, but rarely do we hear that the nation will also face a shortage of nutritionists, welders, and nurse’s aides.

By 2020, it’s projected that nearly four in ten U.S. workers will have a only high-school diploma or less at a time when more jobs will require additional education. Middle schools and high schools have essentially given up on career and technical education, leaving behind a whole generation of students uninterested in pursuing a four-year academic track in college and community colleges as the stepchild of the nation’s higher-education system.

~~  Jeffrey J. Selingo - Chronicle of Higher Education, an author of books about higher education and a professor of practice at Arizona State University ~~

07.06.2015
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Well written article the place that 2 year degrees hold in todays society.

With the cost of 4 year degrees and the low demand for graduates, both students and parents, need to be aware of this.

Maybe reconsider your post high school educational plans.  You can always add to the technical school education later.

By citizen  on  07.06.2015

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Obama Reverses Course on College Ratings

The Gilmer Free Press

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — President Barack Obama dearly wanted to get the government in the business of rating colleges and universities based on value and affordability, promising a new system by 2015. Now that goal is shriveling under the weight of a concerted opposition from universities, lawmakers and bureaucrats in Obama’s own administration.

Nearly two years after the president, standing before a crowd of 7,000 at the University at Buffalo, unveiled the bold proposal as a way to curb soaring college costs, his administration has quietly but drastically scaled back the initiative. No longer does the federal government intend to use a formula to score schools based on factors like price, average student debt and graduation rates, as Obama had envisioned.

Instead, the new tool will allow prospective students to decide which factors are important to them, then draw their own conclusions from the statistics. But officials couldn’t point to any new statistics the tool will offer that aren’t already available through existing government websites.

Abandoning the original plan marked the latest in a series of stumbles for Obama’s education priorities. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama called for expanding access to pre-kindergarten to all American children, and in his 2015 address, he pushed a $60 billion plan to offer two years of free community college. Neither proposal has gained any traction.

The Education Department said it’s still determining what the revised college tool will look like, but that it’s still on track to roll it out by the start of the 2015-2016 academic year, roughly two months from now.

“It is anything but a retreat,“ Education Department Undersecretary Ted Mitchell said in an interview. “It’s a retooling and, we think, an advance on the original concept.“

Yet Obama’s goal, as he described when he announced the plan in August 2013, was to create an alternative to private rankings like U.S. News and World Report whose formulas incentivize schools to “game the numbers” and even raise costs. Instead, Obama sought a system that prioritized whether schools are enrolling and graduating poorer students and whether their graduates succeed in the workforce.

“I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity — are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed — and on outcomes, on their value to students and parents,“ Obama said. He took it a step further by proposing that Congress eventually tie a school’s eligibility for federal financial aid to its score in the new ratings system.

Resistance to Obama’s plan was swift, vehement and nearly universal.

Associations representing colleges with traditionally conflicting interests — such as community colleges and private universities — all lined up in opposition, warning the project was too complex, too subjective and too dependent on shoddy data to ever work fairly. As the Education Department mounted an extensive, lengthy listening tour across the country, college presidents warned of dire unintended consequences and implored the government to reconsider.

On Capitol Hill, the proposal drew pushback not only from the president’s traditional Republican foes, but also some Democrats. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a former education secretary and chair of the Senate’s education panel, took to the Senate floor to threaten an amendment blocking the ratings system. And in the House, Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts — two states with large numbers of colleges — joined forces to sponsor a resolution opposing Obama’s plan.

“Do I think they would have continued if no one had pushed back? Of course I do,“ Capuano said.

But for nearly two years, the administration stuck to the original plan. In a blog post in December 2014, the Education Department said it was considering rating schools as high-performing, medium-performing or low-performing and outlined a few potential metrics, but disappointed many by failing to flesh out the formula it would use to assign ratings.

Driving the decision to stick with a ratings system was Obama, who was dead-set on carrying out his original vision for the project, according to interviews with nearly a dozen congressional aides, administration officials and college association leaders. Many of them spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing the president publicly.

From the start, career bureaucrats and data experts at the Education Department said the idea wasn’t feasible, but met continued White House resistance, those officials said. Technical experts in the education industry that the administration consulted offered similar warnings. Eventually, higher-level Education Department officials grew convinced the plan was unworkable, and persuaded the White House to allow a scaled-back approach devoid of hard-and-fast ratings.

“We are right where the president wanted us to be in terms of making progress toward his vision,“ said James Kvall, deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.

University associations that had fought the proposal praised the Obama administration for taking their concerns seriously and eventually agreeing to abandon the initial plan, calling it a rare example of the government acknowledging its own missteps.

“They really did listen on this,“ said Sarah Flanagan, the top lobbyist for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The more they looked into it, they realized it wasn’t doable.“

West Virginia News

The Gilmer Free Press

Veteran excited to get mortgage-free home

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV — An injured warrior will receive a ceremonial key to a new home during Friday night’s Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton concert as part of the Greenbrier Classic Concert Series.

Former U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Major Andrew Arola will be recognized on stage for his service and given a mortgage free home from the Military Warriors Support Foundation.

“I feel like I’m living a dream and that I’m going to wake up at some point. It’s amazing,” Arola said during an appearance Friday on MetroNews Talkline.

He was injured in the Middle East during one of his several tours of duty. He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

MWSF has given away more than 650 mortgage free homes to veterans. The program also mentor the vets to help them take care of the structure. Stars like Lambert, Shelton and others have shown their support for the program.

The PGA Tour also supports the program under its Birdies for the Brave program.


P&G deal got start at Greenbrier

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says the deal bringing a $500 million Procter & Gamble manufacturing plant to Berkeley County got its start during discussions at the Greenbrier Classic a few years ago.

The state Department of Commerce and state Development Office use the PGA event to invite site selectors of large companies to West Virginia for one-on-one meetings. Tomblin said Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” one of those meetings that eventually led to the P&G deal.

“You develop those relationships,” Tomblin said. “They can sit down with the secretary (Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette) and the governor and it builds up that confidence.”

The state spends $1.7 million in connection with the PGA event, including a television commercial scheduled to air as part of the weekend coverage on CBS. Tomblin said the money is a good investment.

“You can have that one-on-one with (the site selectors). You can say ‘We have four great sites here we would like to show you.’ Without that it would be tough to get on the phone with them for five minutes of their time,” Tomblin said.

The state Development Office has hosted a number of receptions at the Greenbrier this week. Tomblin said there’s also been some good networking among small business owners.


AG: Parkersburg tax plan not in accordance with state law

PARKERSBURG, WV — The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office says Parkersburg’s plan to delay business and occupation tax cuts isn’t in accordance with the state’s home rule law.

The law requires cities that impose a sales tax to reduce B&O taxes.

Parkersburg imposed a 1% sales tax under the law, effective July 1. The city has proposed delaying its B&O tax cuts until January 01, 2016.

The attorney general’s office says it believes B&O tax reductions should occur prior to or simultaneous with imposing the sales tax.

The Home Rule Board had requested the attorney general’s opinion. The office released its response on Saturday.

Parkersburg Mayor Jimmy Colombo tells the Parkersburg News and Sentinel that the city will do what’s necessary to comply with the law.


Meth lab seizures drop in WV

CHARLESTON, WV — Methamphetamine lab seizures are down 20% in West Virginia compared to the first six months of 2014.

The Charleston Gazette reports there have been 123 meth lab seizures so far this year.

Delegate Don Perdue says the decline is due in part to many retail pharmacies no longer selling cold and allergy medications that have pseudoephedrine as their only ingredient.

Pseudoephedrine also is used to illegally manufacture methamphetamine.

Perdue says another possible factor could be a shift in law enforcement priorities to other drugs, such as heroin and prescription narcotics.

Figures from the tracking system NPLex show pharmacies have sold 141,000 boxes of medications containing pseudoephedrine so far this year. A total of 303,000 boxes were sold in 2014. Pseudoephedrine sales peaked at 431,000 boxes in 2013.


most tanks appear registered under reworked state law

CHARLESTON, WV — The state Department of Environmental Protection believes it has close to full compliance with a new state law regulating aboveground storage tanks. A tank registration deadline was July 01.

“This has had a lot of publicity. People have known about it, they’ve heard about it, we’ve had press releases, I think a lot of people have complied,” DEP deputy director of the Division of Water and Waste Management Pat Campbell told MetroNews.

State lawmakers created a regulatory program for aboveground storage tanks last year after the Freedom Industries chemical spill on the Elk River in Charleston. An original registration deadline was October 01, 2014, but a new deadline was established this year after lawmakers tweaked the law reducing the number of tanks that will eventually be regulated.

The next step for owners of tanks that hold things other than water and are greater than 1,320 gallons is a requirement to submit a ‘Spill Prevention Control Plan’ by December.

“They will say, ‘Here’s our plan. Here is who we are going to notify and here are the control measures we are going to have on site,‘” Campbell said.

The DEP registered 50,000 storage tanks under the first state law after the Freedom spill. Campbell predicted under the reworked law only about 10,000 to 15,000 tanks, which are closer to drinking water sources, would have to have spill prevention control plans.

“It has gone with the intent of the legislature to regulate those tanks that are the most significant threat to drinking water supplies,” Campbell said.

The new law classifies tanks in zones of critical concern and zones of peripheral concern according to how long it would take a chemical spill to reach a public water intake. The DEP has to inspect the tanks every three years. The details about the owner’s responsibility will be worked out in the legislature’s rule-making process.

The DEP’s website, dep.wv.gov, offers a survey to tank owners that will tell them if their tanks need to be registered.


First Lady Obama invites WV Girl Scouts to White House

MORGANTOWN, WV — No alarms were raised when about 50 intruders were detected on the White House lawn. The President and First Lady invited the group of Girl Scouts to camp out on their lawn to promote the Let’s Move Outside campaign. Among the lucky campers was Rubbee Bowen, 10, with Girl Scout Troop 5715 in Fairmont.

The trip to the White House came as a bit of a surprise. The girls had been told they were going to a national park but were soon informed this camping trip would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I kind of knew we were going to meet the First Lady but I did not expect to meet the president,” Bowen said during an appearance on WAJR-AM’s Morgantown AM

However, the campers were delightfully surprised when President Barack Obama came strolling out of the White House to inquire as to who was on his lawn.

“Some kid asked if we could have a hug and he said ‘yes’ way too soon. It was like a mob. I got a handshake because everyone was crowding the president but I did get a hug from the First Lady.”

The President and Mrs. Obama spent time tying knots and singing camp songs before heading back inside.

The Girl Scouts also had the chance to eat dinner in the state dining room; of course it was a traditional camp dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs. But, these were White House hamburgers and hot dogs Bowen pointed out.

“They were so good,” she grinned.

The night was cut short when storms moved into the Washington, D.C. area and forced the campers off the lawn and inside.

The girls came from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Oklahoma.

Did You Know?

The Gilmer Free Press

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:


GREEK FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS AFTER `NO’ BAILOUT VOTE

“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride,“ Yanis Varoufakis says in his announcement as Greeks awake to shuttered banks and ATMs with little cash.


MORE THAN 1 MILLION EXPECTED AT POPE’S MASS IN SOUTH AMERICA

Latin America’s first pontiff tours his home continent with a message of compassion for the weak and respect for an ailing planet.


CONFEDERATE FLAG DEBATE RESUMES

While it appears there is support in the South Carolina Legislature to bring down this symbol, the depth of that support will be tested as lawmakers return to Columbia.


WHERE LOCALS ARE STILL TRYING TO RECOVER FROM HORRIFIC LOSSES

A Palestinian man in Gaza Strip who lost his family when Israeli mortar shells hit his home in last summer’s Israel-Hamas war.


BOMBS AT MOSQUE, RESTAURANT IN NIGERIAN CITY KILL 44

Sixty-seven other people are wounded in the attacks blamed on the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.


TEMPERATURES IN EUROPE ARE SETTING RECORDS

Europe is broiling through a heat wave and one town in Germany hit 104 degrees.


WHO BECOMES CAPTAIN AMERICA FOR U.S. WOMEN

Carli Lloyd scores three goals to lead the American team to a 5-2 victory over Japan for the record third World Cup title - and first since 1999.


WHY S. KOREAN VIOLINIST WANTS BORDER CONCERT WITH NORTH KOREA

Won Hyung Joon is trying to help the divided peninsula by bringing North and South Korean musicians together to perform on each side of the world’s most heavily armed crossing.


NO MORE `ROAR’ AS FAMED TRADING PITS COME TO AN END

As the computer - faster and not nearly as noisy - takes over, a culture of brazen bets and flashy jackets will vanish.


STILL AN ATHLETE AT 101

John Zilverberg of South Dakota is competing in the National Senior Games in discus, shot put, javelin and softball throw.

U.S.A. News

The Gilmer Free Press

Catholic shrines team up to draw pilgrims during pope visit

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Four Roman Catholic shrines, including one featuring the glass-enclosed body of a saint wearing his bishop’s vestments and a wax mask so lifelike he appears ready to share a blessing, have joined forces to market themselves to the million-plus visitors expected in Philadelphia to see Pope Francis.

Officials at the national shrines of St. John Neumann, St. Katharine Drexel and St. Rita of Cascia, and the Miraculous Medal shrine, say evangelization is their main goal. But if they can boost gift shop sales, expand mailing lists and create buzz that will keep visitors coming for years to come after the pope’s September visit, that’s good, too.

Pooling their finances, the shrines have created an initial print run of 45,000 brochures. They’ve financed a three-minute commercial running on a local tourism channel and built a new shared website, www.phillyshrines.org . They also plan to purchase billboard space and to rent a bus to funnel pilgrims between the three shrines that fall within city limits.

“We’ve got to have our ‘A’ game,“ said A.J. Quay, senior executive director at Miraculous Medal, which is adding daily Masses and pulling in retired priests.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. How many times is the Pope going to come to Philadelphia? The last time was, what? 1979?“ Quay asked. “This is like winning the Triple Crown: It doesn’t happen often.“

The four shrines, all under the purview of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, are increasing hours, hosting special events such as concerts and lectures, and scheduling more regular workers as well as volunteers.

Shrines are churches or other sacred places devoted to a certain saint or religious practice, and which attract pilgrims.

“Each of our places and our focuses are different,“ said the Rev. Alfred Bradley, director of the St. John Neumann shrine.

At the Neumann shrine, tucked in a commercial area in North Philadelphia, visitors can view the lifelike remains of the saint, who was the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and is credited with expanding the Catholic education system in the U.S.

The shrine of St. Rita of Cascia — the Italian nun known as the “Saint of the Impossible” and the “Peacemaker” — offers calm within the marble walls of a church built in 14th-century Renaissance style on a busy street in South Philadelphia. The shrine began as a parish church dedicated to St. Rita to help welcome Italian immigrants.

The Miraculous Medal shrine, in the residential Germantown neighborhood, features striking stained glass windows and sculpture and is dedicated to Mary. Signs throughout advise visitors to keep quiet because “Mary’s listening to prayers.“ The shrine gets its name from a medallion that was first made in the 1800s and is based on a design that St. Catherine Laboure said Mary gave to her in a vision.

The fourth shrine, located just outside the city in Bensalem, honors the Philadelphia-born St. Katharine Drexel, an heiress who spent her fortune — the equivalent of a half-billion dollars today — on programs to improve the lives of African-Americans and Native Americans. The leafy 54-acre property features meditative gardens and a chapel designed by the saint herself. Her tomb is also located there.

The shrines are also looking beyond the pope’s September 26-27 visit — including to events like the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016.

The leaders said they’ve asked existing donors for extra money to fund the promotional efforts. Sister Pat Downs, the St. Katharine’s director, said her shrine also got a tourism grant.

Before teaming up with the other shrines, she said, she didn’t realize what assets Facebook and Twitter could be. Then she learned Miraculous Medal had more than 1.7 million followers on Facebook and got help building her own shrine’s online presence. Downs is expecting 3,000 visitors during the week of the papal visit. Attendance for 2014 was about 7,000.

Faith and finance don’t have to be in conflict, said Diana von Glahn, host and co-creator of “The Faithful Traveler,“ a Catholic-themed travel show that airs on the Eternal World Television Network and online.

“The whole purpose is to get the word out. If people don’t know about you, they’re not going to buy your stuff,“ she said, referring to both commercial goods and faith messages. “Yes, we want people to support (the shrines) financially and to keep them going for future generations, but we also want to offer them a place where God can touch their hearts.“

List of shrines teaming up for pope’s visit to Philadelphia

Four Roman Catholic shrines in the Philadelphia area have teamed up to attract pilgrims heading to the city to see Pope Francis the weekend of September 26-27.

Each offers a different experience.

Visit the crypt of St. John Neumann and see, through a glass side panel, his body dressed in bishop’s robes. (His head is not mummified; the face is a forensic artist’s recreation.) An Apache burden basket hangs on the wall next to St. Katharine’s tomb in honor of the work she did with Native Americans. Visitors are invited to write their needs on slips of paper and leave them inside. When the basket is full, the papers are shredded, then buried in the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament’s cemetery.


Ohio has looked overseas for lethal injection drugs

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has explored overseas options in its search for lethal injection drugs no longer available in the U.S. despite a court ruling that banned such purchases, records show.

The prison where Ohio carries out executions successfully applied for an import license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration late last year in its search for lethal injection drugs, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request. The license expires at the end of February next year.

“Law enforcement purpose,“ Richard Theodore, prisons agency policy adviser, said on a DEA questionnaire in November, prompted for the reason for applying.

The state declined to comment directly on the license, saying only it was still looking for lethal drugs.

“Ohio continues to seek the drugs necessary to carry out court ordered executions. This process has included pursuing multiple options,“ JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said in an email.

In May, Nebraska’s governor confirmed the state had obtained sodium thiopental from India. But two weeks later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the state cannot legally import a drug needed to carry out lethal injection.

Two years ago, in a case brought by death row inmates in Tennessee, Arizona and California, a federal appeals court ruled the FDA was wrong to allow sodium thiopental to be imported for use in executions.

Asked about Ohio’s license, the FDA says it’s seen no evidence besides news reports that sodium thiopental has been imported into the U.S. recently by state prison systems.

“With very limited exceptions, which do not apply here, it is unlawful to import this drug and FDA would refuse its admission into the United States,“ spokesman Jeff Ventura said in an email.

While the DEA can approve an entity’s request for an import license, a separate process starts when the entity actually tries to bring the drug in, said Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman. Smith, of the prisons agency, declined to comment on the FDA ban.

In Ohio, the drugs are needed to restart executions in the state, which hasn’t put an inmate to death since January 2014. As in many states, Ohio’s traditional supply of injection drugs dried up as companies began putting them off-limits for executions after decades of more or less unrestricted use in capital punishment.

No executions are scheduled in Ohio this year. The state ditched its previous two-drug combo following a troubling 2014 execution that lasted 26 minutes and left the inmate gasping and snorting.

Executions are scheduled to resume in early 2016, with 21 execution dates set over the next four years.

Ohio’s current policy calls for single doses of either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, both powerful sedatives. In its DEA application, the prisons agency said it wants to import both ready-to-use supplies of sodium thiopental as well as bulk supplies, meaning it might try to have the drug compounded into a usable form.

Compounded drugs are small, specially mixed batches of drugs that are not subject to the same federal scrutiny as regular doses of the drugs.

Ohio updated its execution rules this week to require the testing of compounded drugs before their use.

It’s unclear from where Ohio hopes to obtain drugs. Other states, including Nebraska, have turned to a manufacturer in India, according to documents obtained from the Nebraska prisons department by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I presently have a batch being manufactured for 2 states that have placed an order” for sodium thiopental, Chris Harris, the CEO of West Bengal, India-based Harris Pharma, told the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services in an April 15 email. Harris was checking to see if Nebraska wanted to place an order as well. He did not return an email seeking comment.

Smith said the Ohio prisons agency has not communicated with Harris Pharma.

In Nebraska, the issue is temporarily moot: On May 28, Nebraska lawmakers abolished the death penalty over the governor’s objections. Death penalty supporters are looking at ways to reinstate the law.

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