GSC Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month
GLENVILLE, WV – Students, staff, and administrators at Glenville State College teamed again this year to raise awareness about the issue of sexual assault.
Members of GSC’s Army ROTC program, various student organizations, individual students, and several GSC offices partnered with the college’s Human Resources Department Director during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which occurs throughout April, to educate and inform the campus as a whole about the issue.
Some of students, staff, and administrators who took part
in the walking relay pose for a group photo
The main SAAM event, a mile-long relay walking race, included many participants in boots; emphasizing the theme of ‘stomping out violence.‘ The event, which took place at the Waco Center’s indoor walking track, highlighted relay racers walking to show their support for victims of sexual abuse.
“Glenville State is committed to raising awareness to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses,“ said GSC Title IX Coordinator and Chief Human Resources Officer Krystal Smith. “Our goal for these awareness events is to ensure institutional commitment towards maintaining a campus atmosphere for all students to learn and develop free of discrimination and harassment.“
A student adds her signature to the ‘Stomp Out Violence’ board
while other participants wait for the relay to begin
Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects millions. In the United States one in five women are rape survivors and one in two women and one in five men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives; most occurring before the victim is 25.
For more information about SAAM events at Glenville State College, contact Smith at
Victims of sexual assault should contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673 for resources and information.
Participants of the SAAM walking relay complete a lap at the Waco Center
WV Scholar Semifinalists Named
BUCKHANNON, WV – Twenty West Virginia high school juniors have been named as semifinalists for the 2015 MVB Bank West Virginia Scholar Program.
The 20 will now be interviewed as part of the process that will result in a four-year, $125,000 scholarship for undergraduate study at West Virginia Wesleyan, located in Buckhannon, that includes tuition, fees, room and board.
Up 10 finalists will be named May 24. Between then and June 14, votes for the finalists will be cast online.
Beyond the grand prize, there are additional scholarship awards for finalists. The second prize is a four-year, $5,000 scholarship at Wesleyan, while the third prize is a four-year, $2,500 scholarship there.
The winners will be announced during a June 16 luncheon on the Buckhannon campus.
The 20 semifinalists and their high schools include:
• Caitlin Murphy-Tygarts Valley
• Margaret Lohmann-Bridgeport
• Adreanna LeMasters-Wheeling Park
• Johnnie-Jo Hovis-Buckhannon Upshur
• Abigail Chaffins-Spring Valley
• Hannah Daniels-Elkins
• Mateah Kittle-Bridgeport
• Brianna Ritz-Magnolia
• Khori Lowther-Lewis County
• Katherine Rexroad-Notre Dame
• Breunna Haynes-Parkersburg South
• Hayden Nichols-Herbert Hoover
• Kathern Keith-Gilmer County
• Kathryn Gerbo-University
• McKenzie Whitehair-Ritchie County
• Kia Barnhart-Tyler Consolidated
• Ashley Grace-East Fairmont
• Noah Taylor-Clay County
• Savannah Kite-Moorefield
• Sadie McCartney-Elkins
In addition to MVB Bank, West Virginia Wesleyan and MetroNews, the sponsors for the 2015 West Virginia Scholar Program, now in its 7th year, are the West Virginia Homebuilders Association, West Virginia Forestry Association, the West Virginia Hospital Association and Friends of Coal.
Evidence Building of Fracking-Caused Earthquakes
LOS ANGELES, CA — With the evidence coming in from one study after another, scientists are now more certain than ever that oil and gas drilling is causing hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes across the U.S.
So far, the quakes have been mostly small and have done little damage beyond cracking plaster, toppling bricks and rattling nerves. But seismologists warn that the shaking can dramatically increase the chances of bigger, more dangerous quakes.
Up to now, the oil and gas industry has generally argued that any such link requires further study. But the rapidly mounting evidence could bring heavier regulation down on drillers and make it more difficult for them to get projects approved.
The potential for man-made quakes “is an important and legitimate concern that must be taken very seriously by regulators and industry,“ said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
He said companies and states can reduce the risk by taking such steps as monitoring operations more closely, imposing tighter standards and recycling wastewater from drilling instead of injecting it underground.
A series of government and academic studies over the past few years — including at least two reports released this week alone — has added to the body of evidence implicating the U.S. drilling boom that has created a bounty of jobs and tax revenue over the past decade or so.
On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling. The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.
Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults. Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.
“The picture is very clear” that wastewater injection can cause faults to move, said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth.
Until recently, Oklahoma — one of the biggest energy-producing states — had been cautious about linking the spate of quakes to drilling. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey acknowledged earlier this week that it is “very likely” that recent seismic activity was caused by the injection of wastewater into disposal wells.
Earthquake activity in Oklahoma in 2013 was 70 times greater than it was before 2008, state geologists reported. Oklahoma historically recorded an average of 1.5 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. It is now seeing an average of 2.5 such quakes each day, according to geologists.
Angela Spotts, who lives outside Stillwater, Oklahoma, in an area with a number of wastewater disposal wells, said the shaking has damaged her brick home. She pointed to the cracked interior and exterior walls, and windows and kitchen cabinets that are separating from the structure.
“There’s been no doubt in my mind what’s causing them,“ Spotts said. “Sadly, it’s really taken a long time for people to come around. Our lives are being placed at risk. Our homes are being broken.“
Yet another study, this one published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, connected a swarm of small quakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater disposal.
The American Petroleum Institute said the industry is working with scientists and regulators “to better understand the issue and work toward collaborative solutions.“
The Environmental Protection Agency said there no plans for new regulations as a result of the USGS study.
“We knew there would be challenges there, but they can be overcome,“ EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Thursday at an energy conference in Houston.
For decades, earthquakes were an afterthought in the central and eastern U.S., which worried more about tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Since 2009, quakes have sharply increased, and in some surprising places.
The ground has been trembling in regions that were once seismically stable, including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection — a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011 — damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.
The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, has ordered dozens of disposal wells to stop operating or change the way they are run because of concerns they might be triggering earthquakes, said spokesman Matt Skinner.
“There are far more steps that will be taken,“ Skinner said.
Last year, regulators in Colorado ordered an operator to temporarily stop injecting wastewater after the job was believed to be linked to several small quakes.
West Virginia News 15042701
ASSESMENT OPT OUT AVAILABLE OPTION IN HARRISON COUNTY, BUT COMES WITH CONSEQUENCES
CLARKSBURG, WV – As parents across the state are opting their students out of the new Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium tests, one county is saying that option is available, but comes with consequences.
“Though I respect people’s decisions, I hope they respect ours,” Harrison County Superintendent Mark Manchin said. “We simply can not allow them to opt out, or decide that they don’t want to participate in the statewide assessment.”
Manchin said Friday on “The Mike Queen Show” heard on the AJR News Network that, despite what representatives from the State Board of Education have said currently and in the past, this stance was created on a local level with no directive from the state.
He wondered if they did not draw a line now, what the future implications would be of allowing individuals to pick and choose which aspects of public education they participate in.
“What if a parent doesn’t like another decision that we make here? They’re going to, unilaterally, to allow their student to opt out of disciplinary issues, or other issues that we have at the school system and [the administration] allow that to take place? We’re going to create anarchy in our school system.”
The severity of the punishment could vary from school to school.
“We’ve informed the principals that, as in any other disciplinary issue or any other area where a student has chosen not to participate or participate in an unsatisfactory way, they may be subject to disciplinary issues.”
The guideline will be the county policy for insubordination, which is considered a Level III violation. The discipline options available under a Level III violation include after school detention and in-school/out-of-school suspension between 1 and ten days.
The discussion of the “opt out movement” became accelerated in West Virginia after the Herald-Dispatch reported on April 16 that around 200 students at Spring Valley High School in Wayne County had refused to take the test –potentially downgrading the school’s federal designation — with no punishment being issued currently as severe as in Harrison County.
“Wayne County can do as they see fit, Harrison County’s going to do as we see fit,” Manchin said. “Perhaps Wayne County, I don’t know what the rationale, but I think it’s sending a wrong message to the parents.”
While Manchin said he respects the concerns of parents, whether they be with the Common Core/Next Gen Standards, the result being collected in a national database, the concept of assessment testing in general or with moving away from pencil and paper tests, he believes the debate should be conducted outside of the classroom.
“This is not the avenue,” he said. “The information that is garnered from the testing, diagnostic, prescriptive, it tells us how we are doing. It tells us where students, specific students, are doing well, where specific students are not doing well. It drives our instruction.”
The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium testing begins in Harrison County on Monday.
WVU MARCHING BAND TO PERFORM IN 2016 MACY’S PARADE
MORGANTOWN, WV — West Virginia University’s marching band has been chosen to perform in the 2016 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The university announced the selection Saturday. It will be the WVU band’s first appearance in the annual televised parade, which is seen by more than 3.5 million live spectators and more than 50 million people overall.
The Pride of West Virginia was selected from 175 applicants as one of 10 bands to march in the parade, a Thanksgiving day staple since 1924.
MOUNTAINEER FOOD BANK SURVIVES FINANCIAL PROBLEMS
CLARKSBURG, WV - Mountaineer Food Bank has survived financial problems that threatened to shut it down.
Mountaineer board of directors president Julie Harris attributes the turnaround to support from various sources. She says the next step is to hire a permanent executive director and begin a strategic planning process.
Mountaineer’s former director was let go in March, primarily because of cost. The food bank took a financial hit in July 2014 when its computer system crashed, resulting in a costly fix.
The food bank supplies food to more than 600 programs in 48 of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
Help on the Horizon Inc. director Yvonne Chelberg says Mountaineer helps her program feed 80 to 100 families a month in Lewis and Harrison counties.
WV HIGHWAY 7 BRIDGE NAMED IN HONOR OF SOLDIER KILLED IN WWII
CORINTH, WV - A bridge in Preston County has been named in honor of a soldier who was killed during World War II.
Media outlets report that the USAAF Sergeant Everett Wayne “Bud” Sell Memorial Bridge was dedicated on Saturday. The bridge is located on West Virginia Highway 7 in Corinth.
Sell was a gunner and a member of the 773rd Bombardment Squadron stationed at Celine Army Air Base in Italy. During a mission on August 23, 1944, Sell was lost while dislodging a turret on the plane after a fire broke out. His remains were never found.
West Virginia Accidents 15042701
MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CLAIMS LIFE IN CLAY COUNTY
CLAY, WV — A man was killed in a motorcycle accident in Clay County on Friday night.
Sheriff’s deputies said James Woodrum died when the motorcycle he was driving went off Route 4 near Clay and slammed into a utility pole.
The accident happened at around 8 PM.
WOMAN DEAD AFTER HARRISON COUNTY ACCIDENT
sardis, wv - One woman is dead after a single vehicle accident in Harrison County.
Deputies said it happened on Gains Hollow Road in Sardis, just after 3:30 AM Sunday.
West Virginia Arrests 15042701
FAIRMONT MEN ENTER PLEAS IN ARMED ROBBERY
FAIRMONT, WV – Three men who pleaded guilty to robbery from one year ago in Fairmont are headed to prison.
Police arrested Wallace Anthony Booth Jr., Stephen James Brewington and Cory Joseph Richardson after an armed robbery at a Green Street home April 15, 2014.
The men entered the home with guns and demanded money, drugs and other valuables. Fairmont police identified the men as suspects and discovered marijuana, two loaded handguns and valuables from the victim upon executing a search warrant on a seized vehicle.
All three pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery with presentation of a firearm and conspiracy to commit a felony.
In court Wednesday, Brewington was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Richardson was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Booth will be sentenced at a later date.
WV COURT DENIES APPEALS BY WEBSTER COUNTY COUPLE CONVICTED IN 3 SLAYINGS
CHARLESTON, WV - The West Virginia Supreme Court has denied appeals by a Webster County couple convicted of charges stemming from the slayings of three people.
Michael York and his wife, Amanda York, filed separate appeals seeking new trials. The Supreme Court denied both appeals last week.
In each case, the court said it found no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error.
Michael York is serving two consecutive life sentences without mercy for first-degree murder and a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder. Amanda York is serving three consecutive 15-year sentences for voluntary manslaughter.
The charges stemmed from the fatal shootings in June 2012 of 49-year-old Lamar D. Allen, 49-year-old Denise L. Coates and 26-year-old Dustin Brown at the Yorks’ residence in Hacker Valley.
U.S.A. News 15042701
LOST IN THE WOODS, SISTERS SURVIVED ON GIRL SCOUT COOKIES
LUCE COUNTY, MI —Two sisters lost in the woods for nearly two weeks survived on Girl Scout cookies, cheese puffs and snow before being rescued Friday.
Rescue workers found Lee Wright, 56, and Leslie Roy, 52, after their SUV got stuck April 11 in the deep snow in a tree-canopied area in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula. They were weak but in otherwise fine condition, authorities said.
“It is unbelievably remarkable,“ said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Jeff Marker, who assisted in the rescue. “They had multiple layers of clothes on and they were rationing their food.“
Roy, from Nebraska, and Wright, from Oklahoma, left the town of Ishpeming after visiting their relatives and planned to make a three-hour drive to Mackinaw City but never arrived. Their vehicle got stuck near Crisp Point, in an area they couldn’t get cellphone service. While stranded, they relied on eight boxes of Girl Scout cookies and a bag of cheese puffs for food and melted snow for water.
Friday, state police in a helicopter spotted the women. Police hiked 25 minutes before reaching them.
“When we pulled up, they grabbed their purses and Lee Wright clutched onto her Bible and both women were very happy,“ Marker said. “It was hugs all around.“
APPLE WATCH RELEASE UNDERWHELMS CRITICS, SHOWS EARLY SIGNS OF TROUBLE
CUPERTINO, CA —Apple officially launched their Apple Watch on Friday, but customers won’t be able to visit a store to pick one up. Only a handful of high-end boutiques and department stores around the world are displaying the watch on their shelves, while Apple urges everyone else to order theirs online.
An estimated 957,000 people in the U.S. alone pre-ordered the Apple Watch when its sales portal opened on April 10. Most customers are expected to have bought more than one.
The watch comes in 38 designs in materials ranging from stainless steel to solid gold. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated an a research report obtained by Apple Insider that about 85% of people chose the cheaper Apple Watch Sport ($349) over its $10,000 golden counterpart, the Apple Watch Edition.
Although the Apple Watch is expected to be a wearable tech frontrunner, critics have already noticed flaws in its software. USA Today reports thousands of ready-made applications for the watch are running slowly and only a few choice apps are useful so far.
Apple reportedly did not send test watches to app developers before their release, limiting their abilities to create effective products. The company is said to have a reputation of withholding new merchandise from developers in the past.
So far many of the apps have glitches that require the iPhone’s help. In fact, Apple Watch users must have an iPhone with the most recent software update installed in order for their new wearable tech to be worthwhile.
World News 15042701
MASSIVE GREAT WHITE SHARK ATTACKS AUSSIE SURFER, SWIMS OFF WITH LEG
ADELAIDE, Australia —A 26-year-old surfer was hospitalized in Southern Australia Saturday after he was attacked by a massive great white shark—which bit the man’s thigh and swam off with his leg in its mouth, witnesses said.
Chris Blowes was surfing at Fishery Bay, which lies to the west of Adelaide, when he was attacked by the great white—known in the scientific community as a Carcharodon carcharias—one of the largest sharks known to humankind.
Several other people were in the area at the time of the attack, The Inquisitr reported, but no one else was injured.
One surfer who had been in the water around the time of the attack said he exited the sea and turned around just in time to see the shark swimming off with a man’s leg and surfboard in its mouth.
“The shark came in and bit his leg off and the guys helped him in and carried him up the cliff,“ he said in a report by Adelaide Now. “I was just watching the shark go out to the ocean with his board still attached ... Obviously the shark still had his leg and he was still swimming around with it.“
Witnesses said the weather conditions around the beach were dark and rainy, which makes sharks a little more difficult to spot. The shark who attacked the surfer was reported to be about 18-feet long.
Britain’s Daily Mail reported that witnesses said a large amount of blood was seen in the water immediately after the attack—and that bystanders helped to stop the surfer’s bleeding.
Neither Blowes’ condition or prognosis was immediately reported.
SWITZERLAND TOPS 2015 WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT
NEW YORK, NY—People living in Switzerland are the happiest in the world thanks to positive social and economic factors, the 2015 World Happiness Report says.
Published Thursday, the report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network found the fellow northern hemisphere countries of Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada rounded out the top five happiest in the world. The United States came in 15th, down from 11th in the report’s inaugural year of 2012.
“The aspiration of society is the flourishing of its members,“ said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. The evidence here will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.“
The report authors looked at a variety of factors to determine the ranking of 158 countries: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,“ said report editor John F. Helliwell. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.“
Coming in as the least happy country was the western African nation of Togo. Neighboring Benin came in 155th. Filling out the rest of the bottom five were Burundi, war-torn Syria and Rwanda.
VENEZUELAN WOMAN THROWS MANGO AT PRESIDENT, GETS APARTMENT
CARACAS, Venezuela—A woman in Venezuela who struck President Nicolas Maduro in the head with a mango to gain his attention has received an apartment.
Marleny Olivo, 54, threw a mango at Maduro while he was driving a bus in the state of Aragua during a political rally.
The mango displayed Olivo’s name, her phone number and the message “If you can, call me.“ She threw the mango to gain Maduro’s attention to ask for help to fulfill her dream of owning a home.
Video of the incident was recorded and went viral online. Olivo received a call from the president’s office. Maduro spoke during one of his live national television broadcasts about Olivo and the mango.
“She had a housing problem, right? And, Marleny, I have approved it already, as part of the Great Housing Mission of Venezuela, you will get an apartment and it will be given to you in the next few hours,“ Maduro said. “Tomorrow, no later than the day after tomorrow, we will give it to you.“
Olivo said there was “no evil intent” behind her actions. Maduro said the mango was ripe and he would eat the mango later.
The Myth of ‘Value-Free’ Social Science Or The Value of Political Commitments to Social Science
For many decades, mainstream social scientists, mostly conservative, have argued that political commitments and scientific research are incompatible. Against this current of opinion, others, mostly politically engaged social scientists, have argued that scientific research and political commitment are not contradictory.
In this essay I will argue in favor of the latter position by demonstrating that scientific work is embedded in a socio-political universe, which its practioners can deny but cannot avoid. I will further suggest that the social scientist who is not aware of the social determinants of their work, are likely to fall prey to the least rigorous procedures in their work – the unquestioning of their assumptions, which direct the objectives and consequences of their research.
We will proceed by addressing the relationship between social scientific work and political commitment and examining the political-institutional universe in which social scientific research occurs. We will recall the historical experience of social science research centers and, in particular, the relationship between social science and its financial sponsors as well as the beneficiaries of its work.
We will further pursue the positive advantages, which political commitments provide, especially in questioning previously ignored subject matter and established assumptions.
We will start by raising several basic questions about scientific work in a class society: in particular, how the rules of logical analysis and historical and empirical method are applied to the research objectives established by the ruling elites.
Social Scientific Research and Socio-political Context
Scientific work has its rules of investigation regarding the collection of data, its analytic procedures, the formulation of hypotheses and logic for reaching conclusions. However, the research objective, the subject matter studied, the questions of ‘knowledge for what?’ and ‘for whom?’ are not inherent in the scientific method. Scientists do not automatically shed their class identity once they begin scientific endeavor. Their class or social identity and ambitions, their professional aspirations and their economic interests all deeply influence what they study and who benefits from their knowledge.
Social scientific methods are the tools used to produce knowledge for particular social and political actors, whether they are incumbent political and economic elites or opposition classes and other non-elite groups.
The Historical Origins of Elite Influenced Social Science
After World War II, wealthy business elites and capitalist governments in the United States and Western Europe established and funded numerous research foundations carefully selecting the functionaries to lead them. They chose intellectuals who shared their perspectives and could be counted on to promote studies and academics compatible with their imperial and class interests. As a result of the interlocking of business and state interests, these foundations and academic research centers published books , articles and journals and held conferences and seminars, which justified US overseas military and economic expansion while ignoring the destructive consequences of these policies on targeted countries and people. Thousands of publications, funded by millions of dollars in research grants, argued that ‘the West was a bastion of pluralistic democracy’, while failing to acknowledge, let alone document, the growth of a world-wide hierarchical imperialist order.
An army of scholars and researchers invented euphemistic language to disguise imperialism. For example, leading social scientists spoke and wrote of ‘world leadership’, a concept implying consensual acceptance based on persuasion, instead of describing the reality of ‘imperial dominance’, which more accurately defines the universal use of force, violence and exploitation of national wealth. The term, ‘free markets’, served to mask the historical tendency toward the concentration and monopolization of financial power. The ‘free world” obfuscated the aggressive and oppressive authoritarian regimes allied with Euro-US powers. Numerous other euphemistic concepts, designed to justify imperial expansion, were elevated to scientific status and considered ‘value free’.
The transformation of social science into an ideological weapon of the ruling class reflected the institutional basis and political commitments of the researchers. The ‘benign behavior’ of post-World War 2 U.S. empire-building, became the operating assumption guiding scientific research. Moreover, leading academics became gatekeepers and watchdogs enforcing the new political orthodoxy by claiming that critical research, which spoke for non-elite constituencies, was non-scientific, ideological and politicized. However, academics, who consulted with the Pentagon or were involved in revolving-door relationships with multi-national corporations, were exempted from any similar scholarly opprobrium: they were simply viewed as ‘consultants’ whose ‘normal’ extracurricular activities were divorced from their scientific academic work.
In contrast, scholars whose research was directed at documenting the structure of power and to guiding political action by social movements were condemned as ‘biased’, ‘political’ and unsuitable for any academic career.
In other words, academic authorities replicated the social repression of the ruling class in society, within the walls of academia. Their principle ideological weapon was to counterpose ‘objectivity’ to ‘values’. More specifically, they would argue that ‘true social science’ is ‘value free’ even as their published research was largely directed at furthering the power, profits and privileges of the incumbent power holders.
‘Objective Academics’: the Manufacture of Euphemism and the Rise of Neo-Liberalism
During the last two decades, as the class and national liberation struggles intensified and popular consciousness rose in opposition to neoliberalism, one of the key functions of the academic servants of the dominant classes has been to elaborate concepts and language that cloak the harsh class-anchored realities, which provoke popular resistance.
A number of euphemisms, which were originally elaborated by leading social scientists, have become common currency in the world beyond the ivory tower and have been embraced by the heads of international financial institutions, editorialists, political pundits and beyond.
Twenty-five years ago, the concept ‘reform’ referred to progressive changes: less inequality, greater social welfare, increased popular participation and more limitations on capitalist exploitation of labor. Since then, contemporary social scientists (especially economists) use the term, ‘reform’, to describe regressive changes, such as deregulation of capital, especially the privatization of public enterprises, health and educational institutions. In other words, mainstream academics transformed the concept of ‘reform’ into a private profitmaking business. ‘Reform’ has come to mean the reversal of all the working-class advances won over the previous century of popular struggle. ‘Reform’ is promoted by neo-liberal ideologues, preaching the virtues of unregulated capitalism. Their claim that ‘efficiency’ requires lowering ‘costs’, in fact means the elimination of any regulation over consumer quality, work safety and labor rights.
Their notion of ‘efficiency’ fails to recognize that economies, which minimize workplace safety, or lower the quality of consumer goods (especially food) and depress wages, are inefficient from the point of view of maximizing the general welfare of the country. ‘Efficiency’ is confined by orthodox economists to the narrow class needs and profit interests of a thin layer of the population. They ignore the historical fact that the original assumption of classical economics was to provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number.
The concept of ‘structural adjustment’ is another regressive euphemism, which has circulated widely among mainstream neoliberal social scientists.
For many decades prior to the neo-liberal ascendancy, the concept of ‘structural changes’ meant the transformation of property relations in which the strategic heights of the economy were nationalized, income was re-distributed and agrarian reforms were implemented. This ‘classical conception of structural change’ was converted by mainstream neoliberals into its polar opposite: the new target of ‘structural change’ was public property, the object was to privatize by selling lucrative public enterprises to private conglomerates for the lowest price. Under the new rule of neo-liberal policymakers, ‘structural adjustment’ led to cuts in taxing profits of the rich and increases in regressive wage and consumer taxes on workers and the middle class. Under neoliberalism, ‘structural adjustments’ involve the re-concentration of wealth and property.
The scope and depth of changes, envisioned by neoliberal economists, far exceed a simple ‘adjustment’ of the existing welfare state; they involve the large scale, long-term transformation of living standards and working conditions. ‘Adjustment’ is another euphemism designed by academics to camouflage the further concentration of plutocratic wealth, property and power.
The concept ‘labor flexibility’ has gained acceptance by orthodox social scientists despite its class-anchored bias. The concept’s operational meaning is to maximize the power of the capitalist class to set work hours and freely fire workers for any reason, minimizing or eliminating notice and severance. The term ‘flexibility’ is another euphemism for unrestrained capitalist control over workers. The corollary is that labor has lost job security and protection from arbitrary dismissal. The negative connotations are obscured by the social scientist’s manipulation of language on behalf of the capitalist class: the operational meaning of ‘labor flexibility’ is ‘capitalist rigidity’.
Our fourth example of the class bias of mainstream neoliberal social science is the concept of ‘market economy’. The diffuse meaning of ‘market’ fails to specify several essential characteristics: These include the mode of production where market transactions take place; the size and scope of the principle actors (buyers and sellers); and the relationships between the producers and consumers, bankers (creditors) and manufacturers (debtors).
‘Markets’ have always existed under slave, feudal, mercantile and capitalist economies. Moreover, in contemporary states, small scale local farmers’ markets, co-operative producers and consumer markets ‘co-exist’ and are subsumed within national and international markets. The ‘actors’ vary from small-scale fruit and vegetable growers, fisher folk and artisan markets to markets dominated by multi-billion dollar conglomerates. The relations within markets vary between ‘relatively’ free, competitive local markets and massive international markets dominated by the ten largest ‘monopoly’ conglomerates. Today in the United States, international banks and other financial institutions exert vast influence over all large-scale market activity.
By amalgamating all the different and disparate ‘markets’ under the generic term ‘market economies’, social scientists perform a vital ideological function of obscuring the concentration of power and wealth of oligarchical capitalist institutions and the role that financial institutions play in determining the role of the state in promoting and protecting power.
The Question of Political Commitment and Objectivity Reconsidered
By critically examining a few of the major concepts that guide orthodox social science researchers, we have exposed how their political commitments to the capitalist system and its leading classes inform their objectives and analysis, direct their research and guide their policy recommendations.
Once their political commitments define the research ‘problem’ to be studied and establish the conceptual framework, they apply ‘empirical’, historical and mathematical methods to collect and organize the data. They then apply logical procedures to ‘reach their conclusions’. On this flawed basis they present their work as ‘value-free’ social science. The only ‘accepted criticism’ is confined to those who operate within the conceptual parameters and assumptions of the mainstream academics.
Who Benefits from Social Science Research?
In the 150 years since its ‘establishment’ in the universities and research centers, the funders and gatekeepers of the profession, including the editors of professional and academic journals, have heavily influenced mainstream social scientists. This has been especially true during ‘normal’ periods of economic growth, political stability and successful imperialist wars. However, deep economic crisis, prolonged losing wars and social upheavals inevitably make their impact on the world of social science. Fissures and dissent among scientists grow in direct proportion to the ‘breakdown’ of the established order: The dominant academic paradigm is shown to be out of touch with the everyday life of the academics and as well as the public. Crisis and the accompanying national, class, racial and gender mass movements present challenges to the dominant academic paradigms. In the beginning, a minority, mostly students and younger scholars form a vanguard of iconoclasts via their critiques, exposing the hidden political biases embedded in the work of leading social scientists.
For example, the critics point out that the pursuit of ‘stability’, ‘prosperity’, ‘social cohesion’ and ‘managed change’ are ideological goals, dictated by and for the preservation of the dominant classes faced with societal breakdown, widespread immiseration and deepening social changes.
What would begin as a minority movement critiquing the ‘value free’ claims of the mainstream, becomes a majority movement, openly embracing a value informed social science oriented toward furthering the struggle of popular movements. This happens through committed social scientists, whose work criticizes the structures of power, and propose alternative economic institutions and class, national, racial and gender relations.
Economic crisis, imperial defeats and rising social struggles are reflected in a polarization within the academic world: between students and younger academics linked to the mass struggles and the established foundation/state-linked senior faculty.
Having lost ideological hegemony, the elite gatekeepers resort to repression: Denying tenure to critics and suspending or expelling students on the basis of spurious charges that political activism and research directed toward mass struggle are incompatible with scientific work. The emerging academic rebels counter by exposing the elites’ hypocrisy – their political activities, commitments and consultancies with corporate and state institutions.
Movements outside academia and critical academics and students within the institutions point to the enormous gap between the elites declared ‘defense of “universal values’ and the narrow elite class, imperial and race interests that they serve and depend upon.
For example, elite academic claims of defending democracy through U.S. intervention, coups and wars are belied by the majoritarian resistance movements in opposition to, as well as the oligarchies and military juntas in support of, the intervention. The elite academics, faced with these empirical and historical facts, resort to several ideological subterfuges to remain ‘loyal’ to their principles: They can admit the facts but claim they are ‘exceptions to the rule’ – amounting to temporary and local aberrations. Some academic elites, faced with the contradiction between their embrace of the ‘democratic hypothesis’ and the authoritarian- imperialist reality, denounce the ‘tyranny of the majority’ and exalt the minority, as the true carriers of ‘democratic values’. In this case ‘values’ are superimposed over the quest for economic enrichment and military expansion; ‘values’ are converted into disembodied entities, which have no operative meaning, nor can they explain profoundly authoritarian practices.
Finally and most frequently, elite academics, faced with overwhelming facts contrary to their assumptions, refuse to acknowledge the critiques of their critics. They simply avoid public debate by claiming they are not ‘political people’ . . . but reserve their right to castigate and punish their adversaries, behind closed doors, via administrative measures. If they can’t defeat their critics intellectually or scientifically, they use their enormous administrative powers to fire or censure them, cut their salaries and research budgets and thus…. ‘end the debate’.
With these elite options in mind and given that their power resides in their administrative prerogatives, critical academics, oriented to popular movements, need to engage in coalition building inside and outside of academia. First they must build broad alliances with local and national academic solidarity movements defending freedom of expression and opposing repression; secondly they must engage in research supporting popular movements. Any successful coalition must be inclusive among critical academics, students, university workers and the parents of students capable of paralyzing the university and negotiating with the academic – administrative power elite. Finally, they have to strengthen and build political coalitions with social movements outside of academia, especially with groups with which academic researchers have established working relations.These include neighborhood groups, tenant unions, trade unions, farmers’ and ecology movements and community organizations fighting urban evictions, which will ally with academic struggles on the basis of prior working relations and mutual solidarity. When academics only show up to ask for popular support in their time of distress effective social mobilization is unlikely to evolve.
The ‘inside and outside’ strategy will succeed if it strikes quickly with large-scale support. These alliances can go forward through immediate victories even if they are small scale: small victories build big movements.
Academic freedom to conduct scientific research for and with popular, national, democratic and socialist movements is not merely an academic issue. To deny this research and to expel these academics creates larger political consequences. Rigorous studies can play a major role in aiding movements in arguing, fighting and negotiating in favor of their rights and interests. Likewise, critical academics, whose studies are disconnected from popular practice, end -up publishing inconsequential treatises and narratives. Such social scientists adopt an exotic and obtuse vocabulary, which is accessible only those initiated into an academic cult. The elite tolerates this exotic type of critical academic because they do not pose any threat to the dominant elite’s paradigm or administrative power.
For the serious critical academic, in answering the question of ‘knowledge for whom?’: they would do well to follow Karl Marx’s wise adage, ‘The object of philosophy is not only to study the world but to change it.’
~~ Professor James Petras ~~
West Virginia News 15042601
MANCHIN STATEMENT ON CONFIRMATION OF LORETTA LYNCH AS NEXT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued the following statement on the Senate’s bipartisan confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. Attorney General.
“After more than five months since Loretta Lynch’s nomination, I am thankful that the Senate finally confirmed her with bipartisan support as the first African American woman to be the next U.S. Attorney General. Today marks a historic day in our nation, and there is no doubt that her experience and impressive record will help her effectively take on the role of U.S. Attorney General.”
RALEIGH COUNTY ASSESSOR AVOIDS ETHICS HEARING WITH PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
CHARLESTON, WV — A proposed settlement was reached Friday in an ethics violation case against Raleigh County Assessor Drema Bias Evans.
The proposed agreement forced the postponement of a public hearing set for Monday in the case by the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
Commission Executive Director Rebecca Stepto said she could not release details of the proposed settlement until it is voted on by the ethics commission. The panel’s next regular meeting is set for May 07.
Evans was named in four separate charges alleging she violated the state ethics act when she hired her son and grandson.
She allegedly paid her relatives more than some other employees. She also allegedly gave bonuses and raises to other “political employees.”
The original complaint was filed in February 2012.
Possible penalties in the case include a public reprimand and fine.
Evans has been Raleigh County’s assessor since 1989.
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION FACED WITH NEW HIGH SCHOOL PRACTICE-TIME PROPOSAL
MARTINSBURG, WV — Though it didn’t pass last year, a move to allow more high school offseason practices in West Virginia is regaining some momentum.
Coaches currently have a three-week summer window in which to work with their athletes. But as AAU basketball tournaments and football 7-on-7s continue to pick up steam, many high school coaches are seeking more access, similar to what surrounding states allow.
“I just think it would give kids in the state more opportunities,” said Martinsburg football coach Dave Walker. “It would give our coaches an opportunity to work with our kids more and take it away from people who you really don’t want working with the kids.”
A proposal passed last year by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission would have expanded the practice period for the entire summer. However, the measure never made it on the state board of education’s agenda for a final approval.
Martinsburg principal Trent Sherman has been leading the way this year, presenting a similar proposal that would open up school-organized practices for the entire year, with the exception of two “dead periods” per sport (the week of July 04 and one week before the opening of each specific sports season).
Proposal 127-3-7.2 School-organized out-of-season practices or related activities shall be permitted with principal approval during the year, with the exception of 2 “Dead Periods” per sport, and Saturdays or Sundays. These periods are during week 52 (Fourth of July week) and one week before the opening of each specific sports season. During the Dead Periods, there will be no coaching, observing, practice, open facilities, leagues, or school sponsored clinics or camps. The sessions each day should not exceed two hours in length. Participation by students must be open to all students, voluntary, and not required directly or indirectly for membership on a school team. Participation of students during these practices does not meet practice rule 127-2-13.4
1) Saturday or Sunday activities that are part of a camp or league shall be permitted with principal approval.
2) The use of protective equipment, pads, shields or blocking dummies is not permitted during these workouts. Helmets can be used for safety purposes during 7-on-7 competitions or leagues.
The year-round plan, Sherman contends, would remove the necessity of coaches in various sports cramming all their offseason practices into the summer “when students take vacations and have a break.”
“With what we have now, trying to get everything into three weeks, every sport has to get into that time frame,” he said. “Now, we’re pressuring kids to go all day long. If you’re a multi-sport athlete, you would have to either chose or your coaches would have to set it up so there (are practices) all day long.”
The new proposal narrowly passed by a 54-53 vote during the Board of Control meeting this month. Sherman is hoping to pick up enough momentum to send the proposal to the state board of education’s agenda later this summer.
“I plan to go to the West Virginia Board of Education meeting in May and share some of the research that I have,” Sherman said. “With the proposal just passing by one vote, it shows that people are on both sides of the coin. But I think most of the people that voted against it would still agree that some change needs to happen, based on the fact that we are behind as it pertains to the states that are around us.
“Approaching this from an educational standpoint, every piece of research ever done shows that students who are involved in extracurricular activities have higher GPAs and better attendance,” Sherman said. “The state wants the most highly qualified teachers available to be in front of our students. So, why would we not want our highly qualified coaches that we hire to be coaching our students?”
Walker, whose teams attend several 7-on-7 tournaments during the current three-week window, pointed to other national opportunities that would be available if the proposal would be passed.
“I’ve not talked to a football coach, personally, who does not want it,” Walker said. “I know there are some coaches out there who don’t, but every coach I’ve talked to is in favor of it because they think it will help their kids. We’ve missed opportunities in the past. One year we were invited to Hoover, Ala., for a national 7-on-7 tournament in July, but we couldn’t go because it wasn’t in the current three-week period.
“Other coaches would like to be able to do those things in West Virginia. With the current system, if you have a college coach coming in who wants to look at your quarterback throw, they have to do that on their own,” he continued. “I’m not saying it becomes an everyday thing, but it would give you the opportunity to watch your kids throw for 15-20 minutes after lifting weights. With the current rule, you can’t even do that. It would only help the state and the kids who are in the state.”
While the state board of education hasn’t looked kindly to similar proposals in the recent past, Walker and Sherman claim the current three-week limit isn’t working.
“The longer we wait, the further behind we fall,” said Walker, who adds that administrators of each school can police the system to make sure coaches aren’t abusing it by wearing out kids. “If you make the change now, you can always go back and amend it in the future. If it just gets voted down, then we’re still in the same boat that we have been in and I don’t think that’s good.”
Sherman said he fears state officials tabling the issue for more consideration.
“I don’t want to be in a three- to five-year period where we say that something needs to be changed, but we don’t know what to do, so we do nothing.”
The next state board of education meeting is scheduled for May 13 from Charleston. ~~ Garrett Cullen ~~
Union sets WV Workers Memorial Day ceremony
CHARLESTON, WV - The West Virginia AFL-CIO will hold a ceremony at the state Capitol to remember workers who died on the job last year.
The 27th Workers Memorial Day ceremony is set for Noon Tuesday. Local and state workers and union representatives will attend the ceremony in front of the West Virginia Coal Miner Statue.
West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue says the event will honor 17 West Virginians who died at work in 2014.
DONATIONS USED TO ADD 2 DOGS TO SHERIFF’S K-9 UNIT
FAYETTEVILLE, WV - The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has acquired two dogs for its K-9 unit to replace others that died last month.
Sheriff Steve Kessler says residents and businesses donated more than $8,000 in less than a month after an appeal by the sheriff’s department, which had no money available in its budget for the purchase of new dogs.
Kessler says an 8-week-old bloodhound named Pappy and a 2-year-old Dutch Malinois named Bane are undergoing training.
He says the department hopes to raise enough funds to buy additional dogs.
The department lost another bloodhound to a sudden illness on March 25. A Belgian Malinois used in narcotics detection and suspect apprehension was euthanized five days later after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
West Virginia Accidents 15042601
BLAZE RIPS THROUGH RESIDENCE IN PAX
PAX, WV — Authorities in Fayette County were investigating what they described as a possible fatal fire in Pax Saturday afternoon.
Sheriff Steve Kessler said the blaze started in a residence along Coal River Mountain Road at just before 3:00 AM Kessler said the structure was full of flames when firefighters from Pax, Mount Hope and Bradley-Prosperity departments arrived on the scene.
Kessler said the elderly woman who lived there was not immediately located. Investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s were on the scene Saturday afternoon.
West Virginia Arrests 15042601
ROANE COUNTY WOMAN BEHIND BARS
Rita Martin, 57, of Roane County was arrested on DUI charges and endangerment of a child.
She is in Central Regional Jail.
BRAXTON COUNTY MAN NEHIND BARS
Cody Ryan Mollohan, 22, of Braxton County was arrested for soliciting a minor by computer.
He is in Central Regional Jail.
His bond is set at $15,000.
WV OIL AND GAS COMPANY FINED $600,000 FOR CLEAN WATER ACT VIOLATIONS
WHEELING, WV – Trans Energy, Inc., an oil and gas exploration company based in Pleasants County, West Virginia, was sentenced today to two years of probation and ordered to pay fines totaling $600,000.00 after the company admitted to multiple violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with its natural gas drilling activity, United States Attorney William J, Ihlenfeld, II, announced.
Trans Energy sought to capitalize on Marcellus Share natural gas resources in West Virginia. The company discharged materials such as rock, sand, soil and stone into streams in Marshall County, West Virginia to build large impoundments, or reservoirs of water, to supply water to nearby well sites. The reservoirs of water were subsequently used for Marcellus Shale drilling activity. Trans Energy further failed to properly train and supervise its employees and relied upon the unsubstantiated representations of a nearby property owner when determining whether environmental laws were being followed.
“Natural wetlands are essential for the overall health of the environment and of our communities,” said David G. McLeod, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in the Middle Atlantic States. “In addition to providing habitat for hundreds of fish and animal species, wetlands filter and slow the flow of surface water, reducing the impact of flooding. This sentence demonstrates that EPA and its law enforcement partners will remain vigilant in protecting our nation’s wetlands and water supplies.”
Trans Energy admitted that it unlawfully dumped pollutants into Marshall County waterways when the company pled guilty in October 2014 to three counts of “Negligent Discharge of Pollutants without a Permit.” Trans Energy President John C. Corp executed the plea agreement on behalf of the company.
The Clean Water Act, also known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, was enacted by Congress to restore and maintain the integrity of the Nation’s waters. It prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into the waters of the United States without a permit. Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States are prohibited unless authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Perri and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry McDaniel prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division led the investigation.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey presided.
ROANE COUNTY MEN BEHIND BARS
Justin Matthew Hall, 24, of Roane County was arrested on a capias warrant.
He is Central Regional Jail.
Christopher Ray Shumates, 34, of Roane County was arrested for public intoxication and obstructing.
He is in Central Regional Jail.
U.S.A. News 15042601
NUCLEAR LAUNCH OFFICERS CHARGED IN DRUG CASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two more Air Force nuclear missile launch officers have been charged with illegal drug use in cases stemming from an investigation that led to the disclosure last year of a separate exam-cheating scandal, the Air Force said Friday.
1st Lt. Michael Alonso and 1st Lt. Lantz Balthazar, both members of the 12th Missile Squadron at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, face hearings to determine whether they will be court-martialed. One of their fellow missile officers who was a target of the same investigation pleaded guilty to illegal drug use in January and was kicked out of the Air Force.
The Malmstrom missile wing operates 150 of the Air Force’s 450 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Launch officers are trained to operate ICBMs that are armed with nuclear warheads and are on constant alert for possible launch.
Alonso was charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for illegal possession, use and distribution of ecstasy and for “conspiracy related to the drug offenses,“ according to Malmstrom spokesman Josh Aycock.
Balthazar was charged with illegal possession, use and distribution of ecstasy and cocaine and for conspiracy related to the drug offenses. He also was charged with illegal use of Pentedrone, which Aycock said is commonly called bath salts.
Both officers were charged April 17.
Aycock said their cases will be reviewed at Article 32 hearings, which are akin to a civilian grand jury proceeding, to determine whether there is enough criminal evidence to warrant a court-martial. The hearings have not been scheduled, Aycock said.
Alonso and Balthazar were among three Minuteman 3 launch officers at Malmstrom who were under investigation for illegal drug use. The other, 2nd Lt. Nicole Dalmazzi, was charged in December and court-martialed in January.
Dalmazzi, a member of the same squadron, pleaded guilty to illegal use of ecstasy and was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to a month of confinement in a Montana jail. The Air Force had also charged her with obstructing the Air Force Office of Special Investigations probe by allegedly dyeing her hair to alter the results of hair-follicle drug tests, but that charge was later dropped.
The cases at Malmstrom stem from a drug investigation that began in August 2013 at Edwards Air Force Base in California. When investigators examined the cellphones of two airmen at Edwards they found text messages to or from 11 other Air Force officers at several other air bases, including Malmstrom. The messages allegedly detailed specific illegal drug use and led to the discovery that some had also improperly exchanged answers to ICBM launch officer proficiency tests.
The ICBM force, which also operates from bases in Wyoming and North Dakota, has been under the public spotlight in recent years for a series of embarrassing missteps related to low morale, disciplinary problems, a lack of resources, training lapses and leadership failures. Last November, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans for top-to-bottom changes in management of nuclear forces and said the Pentagon would spend $8 billion to fix it.
In testimony to a Senate panel this week, an administration official who headed a detailed review of the nuclear forces for Hagel last year said her group believed that as much as $25 billion could be needed to fix an array of problems.
“The problems that we found were worse and they were much more systemic” than expected, Madelyn Creedon said in her testimony Wednesday.
Creedon, who was head of the Pentagon’s nuclear policy shop at the time and is now principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said her review found that morale in the nuclear Air Force was “not good.“ Nuclear missile crews told her they “felt trapped” in their job.
“They would say, ‘Well, I have the nuclear stink on me so I don’t have much of a future in the rest of the Air Force,‘“ she said.
The Air Force says it has begun to change that attitude by implementing a range of changes and improvements that are being felt across the force.
White Senior Recital Planned - 04.25.15 - Tonight
GLENVILLE, WV—Glenville State College music major Joshua White will perform his senior recital on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 3:00 PM in the Fine Arts Center Auditorium.
He will be performing his recital on the tuba.
“I am proud to say that without a doubt I am graduating from the finest music department in West Virginia,” said White.
While attending GSC, White has performed in the concert band, marching band, choir, chamber singers, jazz band, brass ensemble, brass quintet, trombone choir, and tuba euphonium ensemble/quartet. He also performed with GSC’s tuba euphonium ensemble at the 2014 International Tuba Euphonium Conference. White is the son of Dan and Jennifer White, both of whom are former GSC students, and is from Parkersburg (Wood County), West Virginia.
After graduation White intends to pursue a master’s degree in tuba performance from either Ohio University or the University of Tennessee. He has already been accepted to both.
For more information call 304.462.6340.
Few Veterans Getting Care Through $10 Billion VA Program
A new program that was supposed to get patients off waiting lists at Veterans Affairs medical centers by letting them switch to private-sector doctors is proving to be an even bigger disappointment than initially thought.
The Veteran’s Choice program launched on Nov. 5 with $10 billion in funding and the expectation that it would instantly relieve backlogs at VA hospitals and clinics. But after a hurried rollout that has led to confusion as to exactly who is eligible and what they need to do to coordinate treatment, officials now say only 37,648 medical appointments have been made through April 11.
That figure represents only a tiny fraction of eligible patients. The Choice plan is supposed to be open to patients who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic or who have been told they would have to wait more than 30 days for VA care. As of April 1, there were nearly 432,000 appointments pending in the VA’s scheduling system involving a wait that long.
VA leaders have previously acknowledged that few vets were successfully using the Choice program, but the new statistic came as a surprise — as of mid-March, officials were saying that more than 45,000 appointments had been completed and that participation had been rising.
A VA spokeswoman said data analysts recently corrected that count to exclude duplicate appointments and “incomplete transactions.“
The VA has already announced plans to loosen one important eligibility rule and an analysis is underway to pinpoint why utilization has been low.
One important factor is that many vets have a longstanding relationship with caregivers at their local VA and would prefer to stay in the system, even if it means having to wait or drive long distances.
Yet, it is unlikely that vets have been bypassing the Choice program solely due to lack of interest. Since the program’s launch, approximately 1 million phone calls have come into a hotline that patients can use to schedule a private-sector appointment, according to the two managed care companies hired by the VA to administer the system.
Those contractors, TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Health Net Federal Services, said many of those calls were from vets who didn’t need care right away and simply wanted information. But advocates for veterans have also raised concerns that some veterans interested in the program were deterred by bureaucratic hassles, confusion about procedures or a lack of available, participating doctors.
A survey of about 2,500 veterans conducted over the winter by Veterans of Foreign Wars found that only 19% of VA patients who believed they were eligible for Choice care because of a long wait time had been offered the option of getting care outside the VA.
Anecdotal stories also abound about lost paperwork and delays getting bureaucratic approvals needed to schedule private-sector care.
“There are a bunch of sharp edges,“ acknowledged TriWest’s president, Dave McIntyre. He attributed most of them to an attempt to build the program from scratch in just 90 days — a deadline set by Congress when it created the program last summer.
TriWest and Health Net weren’t hired to run the program until October. That gave them just weeks to perform a dizzying array of tasks, including designing and mailing millions of eligibility cards, creating a call center, hiring and training new employees to work as appointment schedulers and persuading thousands of health care providers to accept VA patients.
McIntyre said his company had to hire and train 850 people in 10 days.
“Were they trained to an optimal level? No. Because you need about four weeks to do that,“ McIntyre said. “But Congress didn’t give us four weeks.“
Executives at TriWest and Health Net both said that both training and bureaucratic procedures are improving.
Slowly, the VA has also been getting its own massive staff up to speed on the program — a task complicated by the fact that Choice is one of several VA programs that allow vets to get private-sector care, each with their own set of eligibility rules that sometimes overlap. The VA says it has been more successful in building those other programs, saying the overall use of VA-approved private-sector care is up 44% over the past year.
Patricia Schiller, a psychologist in Eufaula, Alabama, said she experienced some of the Choice program’s limitations when she agreed to see a local veteran who had been driving 65 miles from his home in rural Georgia to see a VA clinician in Tuskegee, Alabama.
During his therapy session, Schiller discovered that his primary reason for seeking care was that he wanted someone to adjust his medication for post-traumatic stress disorder. That meant he needed to see a psychiatrist who could write prescriptions, not a psychologist like her.
“That’s where the process broke down,“ Schiller said. “I couldn’t even tell you who the nearest clinical psychiatrist is.“
A Health Net directory shows that the closest psychiatrist participating in the program practices in Montgomery, Alabama, 85 miles away.
Technically, any doctor approved to treat Medicare patients can see a vet in the program, but they still have to agree to the program’s terms. TriWest now has about 100,000 medical providers in its network. HealthNet says it has 78,000.
The government came under public pressure to do something about delays at the VA last spring, after revelations that thousands of patients were languishing for months on waiting lists.
In August, Congress gave the VA $16.3 billion to shorten waits and improve access to care. Of that, up to $10 billion was designated to fund the Choice program over three years.
An Associated Press analysis of six months of VA appointment data, published earlier this month, found that those reforms haven’t yet translated into fewer delays. During that period, an average of 128,000 appointments per month took longer than 30 days to complete. Many of those delays were concentrated in a smaller number of problem hospitals and clinics.
Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a recent interview with the AP that while the program isn’t functioning yet as it should, he remains bullish that the Choice program will ultimately have a positive impact.
On Friday, the VA is expected to finalize one tweak to program rules that it expects to nearly double the number of eligible vets. Initially, the VA measured the 40-mile distance in a straight line, but it has since announced that it will change the rule to 40 miles of driving distance.
West Virginia News 15042501
WV WAR DEAD IN IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN TO BE HONORED WITH TREES
FAIRMONT, WV — A Fairmont farm will plant 38 trees Saturday representing the West Virginians who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001.
The Times West Virginian reports that the tree planting is a cooperative effort between Zion Heritage Farm and Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is also participating.
Heather Neill is owner of Zion Heritage Farm. She said an apple tree will be planted for the 37 men and one woman who died serving their country.
The ceremony will include Gold Star families, which are parents, spouses, siblings and children of deceased veterans.
Neill said these families will pick out a tree to represent their fallen loved one. The will be planted by volunteers.
WVSU BOARD OKS TUITION, FEE INCREASES TOTALING 7 PERCENT
CHARLESTON, WV — The Board of Governors at West Virginia State University has approved tuition and fee increases of approximately 7% for in-state undergraduates.
The Charleston Gazette reports that the board approved the increases Thursday, sending the proposed hikes to the state Higher Education Policy Commission for final approval.
If approved, WVSU’s annual tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students will increase by $434, to $6,662.
For out-of-state undergrads, tuition and fees will increase by just over $1,000, to $15,572.
University officials blame the increasing tuition on decreases in state appropriations.
WV ACTOR DAVID SELBY RELEASES BOOK ‘PROMISES OF LOVE’
MORGANTOWN, WV — West Virginia actor David Selby has written a book about a complex family relationship in a small town.
“Promises of Love,“ a work of fiction, is published by Headline Books of Terra Alta.
The 74-year-old Selby is best known for his TV work as Quentin Collins on “Dark Shadows” and Richard Channing on “Falcon Crest.“ He also has appeared in numerous films and on stage and has written several plays and books, including a memoir.
The Morgantown native and West Virginia University graduate was inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2007.
PIPELINE SURVEY APPROVED IN PART OF NATIONAL FOREST IN WV
CHARLESTON, WV — The U.S. Forest Service has approved a permit to survey part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for a proposed natural gas pipeline.
The temporary permit for the survey involves 17 miles of forest through Randolph and Pocahontas counties.
The Charleston Gazette reports the yearlong survey will include studies of plants and animals, wetlands, water, soil and cultural resources.
Dominion Resources Inc. and its partners in the 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline are proposing to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Southeast. The pipeline would run from West Virginia to North Carolina, with much of its path through Virginia.
The governors of West Virginia and Virginia support the pipeline. Opponents say the pipeline will hurt the environment and property values.
VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT FOR CLEANUP OF TYGART LAKE STATE PARK
GRAFTON, WV - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking volunteers for an annual cleanup of Tygart Lake State Park.
The state Division of Natural Resources says the parkwide cleanup will be held from 9 AM to 1 PM Saturday in Grafton.
Trash bags, gloves and other equipment will be provided. Volunteers are asked to meet at the resource manager’s office next to the dam.
MARSHALL STUDENTS COLLECT NEARLY 70 FEET OF DONATED HAIR
HUNTINGTON, WV - Marshall University students have collected nearly 70 feet of hair to be donated to Locks of Love.
WMUL-FM and the Huntington School of Beauty Culture held the eighth annual Hair from the Herd event Thursday at Marshall’s Memorial Student Center Plaza in Huntington.
The station says the event drew 21 donors.
The nonprofit group Locks of Love makes wigs for financially disadvantaged people under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
OPTUM ACQUIRES WALK-IN MEDICAL CARE PROVIDER MEDEXPRESS
MORGANTOWN, WV - Health services company Optum has acquired walk-in medical care provider MedExpress.
Media outlets report that terms of the sale were not disclosed.
Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Optum announced the sale earlier this month. It is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation’s largest health insurer.
MedExpress operates 141 neighborhood medical centers in 11 states with plans to open 25 to 30 additional centers this year. It has 23 locations in West Virginia.
MedExpress spokeswoman Kelly Sorice says the company will retain its administrative offices in Morgantown and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The company was founded in Morgantown in 2001.
MedExpress CEO Frank Alderman says the new partnership will help MedExpress’ focus on improving the health of the communities it serves.
WV PLANS GYPSY MOTH TREATMENT IN 5 COUNTIES
CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia officials will conduct aerial treatments of 6,700 acres in five counties to slow the spread of gypsy moths.
The state Department of Agriculture says spraying is tentatively scheduled to begin next month in Grant, Hardy, Mineral, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties.
The gypsy moth is a non-native caterpillar that has become established in most of the northeastern United States. It feeds on more than 500 species of trees and shrubs but prefers the leaves of oak trees, West Virginia’s predominant forest tree.
Officials say wildlife experts have assured them that no rare, threatened or endangered species would be harmed by the treatments.
G-Eye™: Robert’s Ridge
Work on the Hillside On WV Hwy 33/119 in Glenville, WV
West Virginia Accidents 15042501
TRACTOR TRAILER ACCIDENT ON CHEAT MOUNTAIN IN RANDOLPH COUNTY SENDS ONE VIA HEALTHNET
ELKINS, WV —A tractor trailer accident in Randolph County Thursday evening sent one to the hospital via Healthnet.
The truck was headed south on US Highway 250 on Cheat Mountain when its load shifted coming around a curve. The driver lost control and rolled over an embankment.
The driver was flown by Healthnet for precautionary measures and was conscious and alert.
The truck was hauling lumber for a company out of Logan, WV.
His name has not been released at this time.
BRAXTON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATING FATAL I-79 CRASH
BURNSVILLE, WV —The Braxton County Sheriff’s Department and state police responded to the scene of a fatal crash on Thursday evening.
It happened around 4:30 PM on Interstate 79, near mile marker 78, according to state police.
The vehicle was traveling northbound when it crashed.
TWO-VEHICLE COLLISION NEAR FIRE ACCESS ROAD ON US HIGHWAY 50 INJURES ONE
CLARKSBURG, WV—A two-vehicle collision near Fire Access Road along US Highway 50 near Reynoldsville injured one Friday afternoon.
At approximately 1:20 PM, witnesses said a black truck was crossing US Highway 50 from Fire Access Road when a white passenger vehicle struck it in the westbound lanes.
The driver of the white vehicle was taken by ambulance.
DRIVER KILLED IN MERCER TRUCK WRECK
LERONA, WV — A tractor trailer driver was killed in a Friday afternoon crash in Mercer County.
State police troopers said the driver lost control of the truck on WV Highway 20 near Lerona at about 1 PM The truck went off the road before rolling over. The cab of the truck sustained major damage according to troopers.
The truck was hauling concrete blocks which dumped onto the highway in the accident. WV Highway 20 was closed for a period of time.
Police did not immediately release the name of the victim.
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