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West Virginia Receives “B+“ Grade in 2016 National Survey by the Center for Digital Government

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Chief Technology Officer Gale Given announced today the Center for Digital Government designated West Virginia with a B+ grade in the 2016 Digital States Survey. West Virginia received the same grade in the last survey, which was conducted in 2014. 

Under the Digital States criteria, a grade of “B” reflects a state that is “trending up. They show results in many survey categories, and their leaders use modernization to change entrenched practices to prepare for more sustainable operations. Incentives for collaboration are in place, and performance measures are used in key areas.” 

Over the past two years, West Virginia has achieved success through the use of technology in numerous areas, including:

     
  • Reduction of labor costs by automating services for the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, including requesting personalized plates and official driving records, as well as processing payment of license renewal fees;
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  • Growth of broadband services throughout the state as a result of a federal grant;
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  • Promotion of online businesses and educational growth;
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  • Creation of WV Help, a mobile app that delivers immediate contact information and support resources for those confronting crime, violence and child abuse; and,
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  • Development of the West Virginia Flood Tool, available for mobile devices at mapwv.gov/flood, which assesses flood risk to properties within the state. The West Virginia Flood Tool is designed to provide floodplain managers, insurance agents, developers, real estate agents, local planners and citizens with an effective means by which to make informed decisions about the degree of flood risk for a specific area or property. 

The Digital States Survey was designed to highlight best and emerging technology practices that can be shared across state borders. The survey recognizes these achievements and provides a common reference for all 50 states in the ongoing work of finding better ways to do the public’s business.

 “With limited budgeted dollars, West Virginia has maintained its commitment to expanding technological programs and services within state government, affecting our constituents throughout all 55 counties,” said Given. “The momentum that the Office of Technology has experienced thus far continues as we focus our attention in many areas, including cyber security, which will have a great impact on our citizens.” 

The results of this survey may be publically viewed at www.govtech.com/cdg/digital-states/Digital-States-Survey-2016-Results.html

The Center for Digital Government is a government research and advisory institute on information technology policies and best practices in state and local government. The Center is a division of e.Republic, the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on state and local governments and education. 

Tips For Anyone Who Can’t Afford EpiPens Anymore

The Free Press WV

1. Talk to your doctor.

“We are the liaison between patients, pharmacies, insurance companies, advocacy groups, and schools — we see it all,” says Eghrari-Sabet. Your doctor or allergist is a great resource to find out about the different coupons, price-assistance programs, and grants available to cut the cost of EpiPens.

Your doctor can also provide the necessary school forms for parents who need their child’s school nurse to stock the medicine. They’re an incredible resource and they are there to help you.


2. Get an EpiPen savings card with coupons that can reduce the cost up to $300.

If you visit Mylan’s website EpiPen.com, you can sign up for a savings card, which reduces your out-of-pocket cost for one two-pack EpiPen carton by up to $300 (depending on your insurance), and you can use this coupon for a maximum of three cartons each year.

“You can either bring the physical card in with your paper prescription to the pharmacy, or your doctor can put your savings card ID number on an e-prescription,” says Eghrari-Sabet. It’s also possible that your insurance could cover half of the EpiPen cost, in which case you’ll then be paying zero dollars with the card at the pharmacy.


3. Make sure your pharmacy has applied all possible coupons.

It may sound obvious, but the experts say that pharmacies fail to apply coupons for prescriptions all the time. “They’re moving so quickly, and often they’ll accidentally overlook the savings card ID number on your e-prescription or forget to apply the coupon properly so you end up being charged the full price,” Eghrari-Sabet says. So come prepared with your savings card or ID number and insurance information, and double check whenever you use them.


4. Call your insurance company to check on your deductible and any limitations.

If you’re not sure about what your insurance plan covers or how your deductible works, call your insurance company before you’re in a pinch. If you do have a deductible, you’ll have to meet that before your insurance will start covering the prescription cost.

You should also ask if they accept EpiPen coupons, since some private insurance companies do not, says Eghrari-Sabet.

“The last thing you can do is call and complain, and ask the insurance company what to do if you can’t pay for a life-saving drug, because then the pressure is there to change,” says Eghrari-Sabet.


5. Apply for Mylan’s patient assistance program.

Most pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs (PAPs) to provide free or low-cost drugs to people with financial hardships who can’t pay for their medication. Mylan’s EpiPen patient assistance program provides the injector to low-income patients, but they set their own eligibility requirements, says Eghrari-Sabet.

In order to qualify, you must be a legal U.S. citizen, have no prescription insurance coverage, and make at or below 400% of the federal poverty line. Mylan actually increased the income level from 200% to 400% on August 25, 2016, due to mounting pressure.


6. Call a patient advocacy group for help understanding your insurance plan and options.

While doctors are a great resource, they can also get tied up with other patients and clinical responsibilities. “Patients need to know that there are advocacy groups for people with allergies who are there to answer all of your questions,” says Eghrari-Sabet. These groups have employees and volunteers ready to help every single patient, no matter how long it takes. They can explain the price change, walk you through your individual insurance plan and deductible, and help you find the right cost-assistance program. Here are a few to get you started:


7. Ask if your company’s HR department offers cost assistance to employees.

If you receive health insurance through your company, sometimes human resources can help. “You can ask your HR department for assistance if it doesn’t cover the EpiPen and you’re having financial hardship and the company might have resources to help you pay,” says Eghrari-Sabet.

Not to mention, lobbying for the EpiPen to become a covered benefit under your company’s healthcare plan could result in tangible changes in the following year when the insurance plans change and roll over.


8. Ask your doctor’s office if there’s any way for them to get free samples from their pharmaceutical reps.

“If a patient isn’t able to afford the drug, we can talk to our EpiPen [pharmaceutical company] reps and tell them about the patient’s case without revealing personal information, so hopefully they’ll give us a free sample,” says Dr. Reenal Patel, physician at Allergy & Asthma Care in New York City. Doctors obviously won’t be able to do this for every patient, but it is an option you can explore if you’re in a tight spot.


9. Make sure your child’s school is opted into Mylan’s school partnership program, which supplies EpiPens to schools for free.

Most states have legislation which requires schools to stock EpiPens, but the laws aren’t always enforced, and many schools just don’t have them on-hand, says Eghrari-Sabet.

Mylan does have a program, “EpiPen 4 Schools” which provides four free EpiPens, a storage unit, and free training guides to your child’s school. “Each year I write thousands of prescriptions just for EpiPens to give to the school nurse because they don’t carry them, so this is incredibly cost-saving,” says Eghrari-Sabet. You still need to see a doctor to get the appropriate forms, which you can do during your child’s annual checkup during the summer before school starts.


10. Check the expiration date before you pay for an EpiPen to make sure it’ll last at least one year.

No matter what you pay for your EpiPen, check the expiration date. You wouldn’t buy milk that expires tomorrow if you can buy milk that expires in a week, right? Same goes for the EpiPen. They can last for up to 18 months or even two years, says Eghrari-Sabet.

If it expires in less than a year, the experts say you can ask for their newest carton or ask for the pharmacy to order new cartons immediately. “Make sure you check the box immediately when they give it to you, before you pay, because once you pay you can’t exchange it,” says Eghrari-Sabet.


11. Explore alternative epinephrine injectors.

EpiPen is the only FDA-approved epinephrine auto-injector covered by most insurance companies. Mylan patented the injector design so the alternative options are very limited, says Eghrar-Sabet. One cheaper, FDA-approved version called Auvi-Q had success until it was recalled in 2015 due to inaccurate dosage issues. Adrenaclick is another FDA-approved auto-injector, but it’s hard to find and most insurance companies won’t cover it so it’s not much cheaper. The FDA actually made it illegal for pharmacies to prescribe Adrenaclick as a low-cost alternative to the EpiPen if patients couldn’t pay.

“The last resort is a bottle of epinephrine and syringes to do it yourself, but this isn’t FDA-approved and you also need to know how to draw up your exact dosage in the syringe and inject yourself, which is almost impossible to do if you’re in the heat of anaphylaxis,” says Eghrari-Sabet. It’s really only a viable option if you happen to be a trained medical professional with an allergy.


12. Become an advocate, and ask your state congressperson for EpiPens to get on the Preventive Drug List.

The Preventive Drug List outlines that certain preventive health benefits and prescription meds are exempt from your deductible in high-deductible health plans. If EpiPens are on the list, then federal rules allow you to pay zero copay or coinsurance at the pharmacy even if you haven’t met your deductible.

“Congress has the ability to say that EpiPens need to go on the list because they are truly lifesaving and everyone who needs them should be able to get one,” says Eghrari-Sabet. Even though writing a letter isn’t a short-term solution, it’s a great way to advocate for yourself as a patient and fight for federal laws that could make EpiPens free in the future. You can learn more by visiting the American Allergy Foundation of America or the Allergy and Asthma Network advocate information pages.


13. Finally, don’t give up until you can get an EpiPen.

“My biggest fear is that this price change will cause people to think that the EpiPen isn’t worth buying, or it isn’t worth using if people think the reaction isn’t serious enough or worth a $600 treatment,” says Eghrari-Sabet.

The reality is, using an EpiPen is always worth it, because you may have no idea if a reaction is life-threatening until it’s too late.

“You don’t sit around wondering if you need an EpiPen when your throat is swelling up — you just need it,” says Eghrari-Sabet. And patients should exhaust every single option they have until they can get the treatment they need.

West Virginia Residents Urged to Get a Flu Shot

Officials with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are reminding residents to take steps to prepare for the upcoming flu season. In a newly launched public service announcement, Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner and State Health Officer, urge West Virginians to get a flu shot to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The 60-second video features Bowling and Gupta discussing the importance of the vaccine for everyone, especially those at high risk for flu complications.  The public service announcement was filmed at Saint Francis First Urgent Care and Wellness Center in Charleston, West Virginia, where Secretary Bowling received her flu shot.


“We all need to make a commitment to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the flu this season,” said Bowling. “Now is the opportune time to consider basic preventive measures such as the flu vaccine, and I hope this public service announcement encourages someone to take action today.”

Gupta underscores the importance of not waiting until the middle of the flu season to get a shot.

“The flu shot not only helps protect you and your family, but also residents among our most vulnerable population,  including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, as well as those with chronic health conditions,” said Gupta.

In addition to getting a flu shot, Gupta said there are several preventive steps you can take to fight the flu:
• Wash your hands frequently, cover your cough and sneeze into your sleeve if you do not have a tissue.
• Wipe down frequently touched surfaces with a disinfectant.
• Stay home when you are sick.

Flu symptoms include quick onset of fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough. Persons who may be suffering from influenza-like symptoms should see a medical provider right away. For more information about the flu, please visit www.dide.wv.gov and click on “Influenza.”

Did You Know?

The Free Press WV

COMMUTER TRAIN CRASHES INTO STATION, KILLING ONE, INJURING SCORES

The wreck in Hoboken, New Jersey, renews questions about whether long-delayed safety technology could have prevented the tragedy.


HOW TRUMP IS UPPING THE ANTE

The GOP candidate resurrects Bill Clinton’s impeachment, thrusting the former president and his infidelities into the already-rancorous presidential campaign.


KILLINGS IN CHICAGO REACH GRIM MILESTONE

The city saw 91 homicides in August, its deadliest month in two decades.


WHO’S JOINING WORLD LEADERS FOR SHIMON PERES’ FUNERAL

Obama flies to Israel to pay tribute to a fellow Nobel Prize laureate - who also labored for peace in the Middle East but failed to achieve it.


TWO VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS HAILED AS HEROES

One neutralized a teenage gunman at a South Carolina elementary school, while the other treated a young boy who had been shot.


WHERE CALLS FOR CEASE-FIRE REMAIN UNHEEDED

Government troops continue their push into rebel-held districts of Aleppo as international officials warn of an ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria’s largest city.


BANK BOSS ROASTED YET AGAIN

Angry lawmakers heap another round of blistering criticism on Wells Fargo’s CEO, pressing for details about what senior managers knew about allegedly illegal sales practices.


TOP SCIENTISTS UNIMPRESSED BY PARIS ACCORD

The agreement to fight climate change, even if heeded, won’t be enough to avert dangerous warming levels in about 35 years, they say.


JANET JACKSON’S PLANS BEAR FRUIT

Months after saying she was planning a family, the singer is spotted sporting an apparent baby bump.


U.S. HOPING TO AVOID MORE RYDER CUP DISAPPOINTMENT

Europe has won six of the last seven Cup competitions, and eight of the last 10 dating to 1995.

In West Virginia….

The Free Press WV

►   Second Agency Drops West Virginia’s Bond Rating a Level

Another major credit rating agency has dropped West Virginia’s bond rating.

Fitch Ratings announced the downgrade Wednesday from AA+ to AA, calling the outlook negative amid uncertainty in the state’s economy.

Fitch says economic and financial challenges are largely due to significant domestic and international momentum to reduce coal usage. Fitch also cited current low natural gas prices and lack of transmission capacity.

Fitch expects challenges to continue for several years, applying financial stress until the coal decline bottoms out and is replaced by expansion in the state’s other natural resources, or some other positive development.

Fitch called West Virginia’s demographic profile weak, mentioning its steadily declining population.

Fitch praised the state’s reserves and low debt.

Standard & Poor’s dropped West Virginia’s bond rating in April from AA to AA-minus.


►   State Officials Applaud Legislation That Will Supply Flood Recovery Money

After the spending bill was blocked, West Virginia officials are applauding the passage of legislation that includes flood recovery money.

The House voted Wednesday night to send President Obama a bill to avert a government shutdown and put $500 million toward West Virginia and Louisiana flood relief. The Senate voted earlier Wednesday.

Senators stalled the bill Tuesday after many Democrats opposed the lack of money for Flint, Michigan’s lead-contaminated water. A dozen conservative Republicans also opposed the bill.

Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito commended Wednesday’s turnaround.

Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who requested $310 million more in federal flood cash, said additional money will help make communities stronger than ever. It’s unclear what the bill awards West Virginia.

The June floods killed 23 people and ravaged West Virginia communities.


►   WVU Researchers Say State’s Economy Is Recovering, Slowly

West Virginia University researchers say economic indicators show West Virginia is further emerging from a recession.

The university said in a news release that the Mountain State Business Index has posted gains in four of the past six months. The index combines seven economic indicators to measure the expected swings in the state’s economic activity.

But the statement says the state’s recovery from the recession has been lackluster compared to previous business cycles due to the devastating floods in June and other economic issues.

WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research director John Deskins says it remains uncertain if stronger economic growth will occur in the coming months.


►   Charleston Moves Forward with Fireworks Restriction Bill

A bill that would limit the use of fireworks in Charleston is moving forward.

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted to recommend approval of the bill, which will advance to the council for a final vote next week.

The bill would restrict the use of fireworks to four days per year, including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve.

Those looking to use fireworks for a special occasion on any other days would need to seek permission from the police chief.

City Attorney Paul Ellis, who drafted the bill, says the council will be able to make changes to it by removing or adding days that fireworks would be permitted before it takes a final vote October 03.


►   West Virginia man accused of shooting deer in DC

There is no deer season in the nation’s capital. No hunting of any animal is allowed within the District of Columbia.

Police say that didn’t stop Vernon Goyne of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, from putting on camouflage and trying to bag a buck in a residential neighborhood of northwest Washington.

Officers found Goyne preparing to hit the wounded deer with a stick in the woodsy Palisades neighborhood Tuesday.

Scott Giacoppo with the Washington Humane Society says the 250-pound deer - known as an Imperial Stag for its 14-point antlers - had to be euthanized.

Goyne faces five charges including animal cruelty and possession of an unregistered firearm. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.

The Downside of Government Programs

The Free Press WV

I hadn’t heard of Edward Conard before, but apparently he worked with Mitt Romney at Bain Capital. So he should know a thing or two, being as how Bain was what you might call a corporate repair shop. Its job seemed to be taking in beat-up corporate jalopies and doing a complete makeover, before sending them back on the road, all fixed up and slicked up.

Conard’s first book was Unintended Consequences, “which set the record straight about the financial crisis of 2008 and explained why U.S. growth was accelerating relative to other high-wage economies.“ In other words, it wasn’t the banks’ fault.

Now in The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class Conard shows how how pretty well all the standard nostrums won’t work to get the economic moving again.

Yes, he says, inequality has been increasing, but only at the very top end. And how are the 0.0001 percent getting rich? We all know the reason. It is chaps like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates coming up with long-shot technology startups that can grow into $500 billion corporations with very little additional capital.

The thing to understand about today’s knowledge-based economy, compared to the old manufacturing economy of old is that it doesn’t take much to scale up to a global scale. In the old economy a Rockefeller or a Ford had to borrow money and/or sell shares to scale up; a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t. He gets to keep all the value for himself and his startup buddies and early VC investors.

Aside: Someone once told me that they had encountered Bill Gates in a store just after Microsoft had gone public. He asked Bill why he did it. Gates answered: to share the company with the employees.

But who cares about the inequality? Zuckerberg isn’t hurting anyone except when he is buying the houses close to his place in Palo Alto. He is making money just like an entertainment star does, because people all over the world love his product.

The basic proposition in the modern economy, according to Conard, is this. To succeed in the modern economy you need two things, “properly trained talent” and a capacity for risk-taking.

And the reason that the US has been growing faster that our high-wage pals in Europe is that we have been doing the knowledge economy thing better than they.

That doesn’t necessarily mean “education.“ Most people going to college are majoring in things that have nothing to do with the new economy. And according to Conard, pretty well all the usual suspects to fix education aren’t going to make a difference. Most useful training takes place on the job.

And most people don’t want to put their savings at risk. That is why we have banks. Banks take risk-averse savings and lend them to people that are taking a risk. Of course, lending is supposed to be properly collateralized and credit-worthy. But sometimes you get a Black Swan and the banks go south.

So how do you mobilize risk-averse savings? You have to balance it with equity. That just means that the startup guys need equity capital to provide a cushion against failure for the risk-averse folks. The more equity out there the more risk-taking propositions the economy can address.

Here is where Conard introduces something I didn’t know. Apparently one of the provisions of Dodd-Frank is to make it harder for the Fed to act as lender of last resort.

Rather than strengthening the Fed’s ability to act more effectively as a lender of last resort in a bank run, policy makers have done the opposite. They have made banks more responsible for bank runs by intentionally weakening the Fed’s ability to act in a panic. Banks pulled back by raising credit standards.

Hello! The “Intellectual Yet Idiot“ class provoked the Crash of 2008 because the Fed felt it could not rescue Lehman Brothers under current law. So the Fed is still stupid like it was in the 1929-33 crash. The whole point of the Fed is to be a lender of last resort that lends whatever it takes to keep the financial system afloat, as per Lombard Street by Walter Bagehot. And then worry about the fallout later. Period.

In the event, not just the Fed but the US government ended up guaranteeing just about everything in the financial system, as my usfederalbailout.com shows.

The point about the banking system is that is really is doing a conjuring trick. It is taking risk-averse savings and making it into semi-risk capital. Of course that proposition goes south every now and again.

But the big message of The Upside of Inequality is that there really is not much that government can do about inequality or indeed anything else. Yes, we should help the poor, but we should not expect to get much result. We should fund education, but it is not going to have much result.

What we could do, in a chapter called “Real Solutions,“ is this:

  • Encourage “ultra high-skilled immigration.“ Because that would help the “properly trained talent” problem. 
  • Lower the marginal corporate tax rate, to attract employers back to the US. 
  • Demand balanced trade. Not to save manufacturing jobs but because when we run a trade deficit we import a lot of risk-averse capital that gets invested in government bonds. Not good. We need more risk capital. 
  • Increase bank guarantees, not reduce them. 
  • Don’t enact a middle-class tax cut. That would slow growth.


Of course, after reading a 250-page policy book I rather wonder about the premise of policy analysis books. They are always recommending some sort of pushme-pullyou hydraulic replumbing of government to get the right pressure to force growth—or equality or justice—out of a sputtering jalopy.

But what do people really want? The working class of 200 years ago was walking from starvation to wage jobs in the city. The immigrants from Mexico have been doing the same.

But once everyone has got to the city and has got a half-decent job, what then? Most people just want to sit back and live a modest life and blame “them” if and when things go wrong. They don’t care about “growth” except when their part of the world is declining, and the kids have to move away to get a job. But they do want that free stuff the politicians keep offering.

Really, nobody has thought about what comes next. What you might call the Downside of Government Programs and free stuff.

OK. We know what comes next. The whole big-government edifice crumbles to dust because its free-stuff concept has completely wrecked the economy and the culture.

But after that. What do we do then?

Come on geniuses. Give it your best.

~~  Christopher Chantrill ~~

Trump Asks Iowa Crowd If Non-Christians Should Be Booted From Rally

While campaigning in Iowa Wednesday, Trump asked non-Christians in the crowd to identify themselves, then asked the rest of the crowd if maybe they should be kicked out. The moment seemed on a sick continuum with his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States a year ago. Because with a scandal, lie or piece of incitement nearly every day, the average voter is bound to forget a few.

Trump broached the conversation by applauding himself for garnering wide support among Christian conservatives, whom he asked to raise their hands.

“We have our ‘Christian Conservatives for Trump’ today and they’re in the room. Let’s go,“ he said, motioning to the crowd.


The crowd cheered, raising signed that read “Christian Conservatives for Trump.“

“That’s what we want. That’s beautiful,“ Trump said. “Raise your hand if you’re not a Christian conservative,” Trump then told the crowd. “I want to see this, right? Oh there’s a couple people, that’s all right.”

“I think we’ll keep them, right?” Trump asked the crowd.

“Should we keep them in the room, yes? I think so.”

Will Trump have to walk back the comments? Probably not.

In USA….

The Free Press WV


►   Charlotte Girl on Police Brutality: ‘I Can’t Stand How We’re Treated’

The shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott last week hit hard in Charlotte, NC. But someone who’s feeling particular distress over it is young Zianna Oliphant, who spoke at a Charlotte City Council meeting Monday evening, addressing a hushed room with tears streaming down her cheeks as she spoke of the black experience and police brutality, New York reports. “I come here today to talk about how I feel,“ Zianna started off. “I feel like … we are treated differently than other people. … We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this.“ What especially drew the crowd’s attention, in addition to Zianna’s words and how emotional she was: the fact that she’s a 9-year-old fourth-grader who spontaneously took the podium, per NBC News. “I decided to just go up there and tell them how I feel,“ she says.

“I’ve been born and raised in Charlotte and I never felt this way till now,“ she said, breaking down. “And I can’t stand how we’re treated. … It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can’t even see them anymore. … We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side.“ Her mom, Precious Oliphant, tells NBC both Zianna and her brother, who also spoke at the meeting, are involved in a police youth league with cops who serve as “role models,“ showing them the ropes of “responsibility, dedication, and commitment.“ But Oliphant adds she’s been pulled over by police for what she thinks were trivial things, and she doesn’t want her kids to have that same experience, or to face danger. As for Zianna, she’s not afraid to forge her own path for the future. “I’m not shy to tell them how I feel about it,“ she says.


►   Video Shows Cops Mistakenly Shooting 6-Year-Old Boy

New body cam footage shows the moment two marshals in Marksville, Louisiana, realize they accidentally killed 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis. The marshals, 32-year-old Derrick Stafford and 23-year-old Norris Greenhouse, each face one count of murder and attempted murder. The body cam footage, which CNN says came from a separate officer, was released as part of the pre-trial process. The video, which can be seen in full at on YouTube, shows both the moment of the shooting and officers discussing the aftermath. (The content is graphic.) “I never saw a kid in the car,“ says one officer.

The shooting occurred in September 2015, after officers attempted to break up a fight between a man and his girlfriend outside of a bar. The male suspect, Christopher Few, jumped in his car and fled from police. Officers gave chase, unaware that Few’s son, Jeremy, was in the front seat. At the end of the chase, officers cornered Few on a dead-end street, and shot at least 18 rounds into his car, severely wounding Few and killing Jeremy, the Advocate reported at the time.


►   1 Dead, About 108 Injured in New Jersey Train Crash

A commuter train plowed into the bustling Hoboken rail station during the morning rush hour Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring more than 108 others, some critically, in a tangle of broken concrete, twisted metal and dangling cables, authorities said. Witnesses reported seeing one woman trapped under concrete and many people bleeding after the arriving New Jersey Transit train crashed through a barrier at the end of the track, reports AP. The train came to a halt in a covered area between the station’s indoor waiting area and the platform, collapsing a section of the metal shed roof. The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending investigators.

Nancy Bido, a passenger on the train, told WNBC-TV in New York that the train didn’t slow as it pulled into the station. “It just never stopped. It was going really fast, and the terminal was basically the brake for the train,“ she said. Hoboken, which is NJ Transit’s fifth-busiest station with 15,000 boardings per weekday, is situated just across the Hudson River from New York City. It is the final stop for several train lines and a transfer point for many commuters on their way to New York City. A spokeswoman for NJ Transit said she doesn’t know yet how fast the train was going when it crashed through the bumper. TV footage and photos from the scene showed the rail car was mangled.


►   ‘After School Satan Club’ Coming to Portland School

Normally, an elementary school adding an after-school program isn’t cause for national headlines. Things are little different when the program is called the After School Satan Club. The Portland chapter of the Satanic Temple has just been approved to establish the club at Sacramento Elementary School in Portland, the Oregonian reports. Despite the name, CBS clarifies that the Satanic Temple’s focus is on teaching science and critical reasoning, not devil-worship, the idea being to counter Christian after-school groups springing up around the nation. The After School Satan Club will run once monthly, on Wednesdays, at the same time the Evangelical Christian Good News Club meets at the school.

The Satanic Temple itself isn’t quite what its name suggests, explained the Washington Post in a previous story. It “doesn’t espouse a belief in the existence of a supernatural being that other religions identify solemnly as Satan, or Lucifer, or Beelzebub,“ but it’s fond of offering “tongue-in-cheek” support of the devil to make a point about the separation of church and state. The temple has been expanding into after-school programming specifically to counter the increasing influence of religious after-school programs like the Good News Club, which were given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court in 2001. The After School Satan Club ultimately hopes to establish a chapter in every school where the Good News Club has a presence, Fox News reports.


►   Mom Likely Dead as Questions Mount for Son Lost at Sea

The case of a 22-year-old man with Asperger’s rescued Sunday after eight days lost on the Atlantic Ocean got stranger Tuesday with revelations that police searched his home and that he was once a person of interest in his grandfather’s murder, CBS Boston reports. Nathan Carman left Rhode Island for a fishing trip with his mother, Linda Carman, September 18. Linda is now presumed dead. According to the Boston Globe, Carman was getting the life raft after his boat, the Chicken Pox, suffered engine trouble and started taking on water when he lost sight of his mother. “All I’m going to say right now to you is that a terrible tragedy happened,“ the Hartford Courant quotes Carman as saying. “I’m lucky to be alive.“

Police searched Carman’s home on Monday, taking a modem, SIM card, and letter. They believe he may have been making repairs on his boat that made it unsafe. They also say “Linda and Nathan had different intentions as to the final destination of the fishing trip.“ And there are other questions: a witness says neither mother nor son had fishing gear or food with them; Carman claims the boat sunk within the Coast Guard’s search area, but searchers never saw him or the boat; and there were no calls for help. Nathan’s grandfather was shot and killed in 2013, and Carman was briefly a person of interest. He says the cases are “totally separate.“ “Losing my grandfather was like losing a father,” he tells the Globe. “Losing my mom—is losing my mom.”


►   Dad Killed in Road Rage Incident on Way to See Newborn

A father was on the way to visit his newborn baby Monday night when he was fatally shot in a road rage incident outside Seattle, the Seattle Times reports. It’s unclear what exactly happened between 33-year-old Dennis Sloboda and the other driver, but Sloboda showed up at his brother Anton’s apartment and said the other driver had flashed a gun at him. Not only that, but the man had apparently followed Sloboda to his brother’s apartment. The man left, and Anton ignored his brother’s request for a gun, believing the man had given up. He told him to eat something and watch a movie instead. “I was like, ‘You have a family, you have a kid, you’ve got to be a father. Just wait around,‘“ Anton tells the Federal Way Mirror.

Dennis Sloboda left his brother a little while later to visit his wife and son—born just five days earlier—in the hospital, KOMO News reports. He never made it. Sloboda was found dead a few miles from his brother’s apartment, shot in the head through the back of his car. Police are continuing to investigate what happened. “He’s the sweetest guy,“ Zakharry Sloboda says of his brother Dennis. “Want to help everybody.“ Anton adds to the Mirror: “He had his best life right now.“


►   FBI: Lick of an Envelope Helped Catch Bank Robber

A man charged in a fatal bank robbery 13 years ago was captured with the help of a tipster and DNA secretly collected from an envelope when he coincidentally filed a fraud complaint, authorities say Richard Leon Wilbern was arrested Tuesday when he went to meet with FBI agents in Rochester for what he thought was a meeting about his complaint. Wilbern had been on the FBI’s radar since March, when a former co-worker named him as a suspect in the August 2003 robbery of a credit union on the Xerox Corp.‘s Webster, NY campus where he once worked, the AP reports.

A bank customer was fatally shot in the neck and another customer was wounded when a man wearing an FBI jacket opened fire after telling an employee he was there for a security assessment. The robber escaped with more than $10,000. In what Cohen called “an incredible coincidence,“ investigators were looking into the tip when Wilbern called the FBI to report a suspected real estate scam. When agents met with Wilbern, who served time for a 1980 bank robbery, they had him sign paperwork and lick an envelope, from which they obtained a DNA sample. They matched that sample to one taken from an umbrella left behind at the bank robbery 13 years earlier.


►   After Cosby Case, California Ends Statute of Limitations for Rape

The emotional stories of women who say they were sexually assaulted more than a decade ago by Bill Cosby prompted California state lawmakers to approve a bill to eliminate the state’s 10-year limit on filing rape and related charges. On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he has approved the legislation to revoke that limitation, the AP reports. Beginning next year, the bill will end the statute of limitations in certain rape and child molestation cases. It will also end the time limit on older cases in which the statute of limitations has not yet expired. The new law, SB813, will not, however, help women who made allegations against Cosby dating back more than 10 years, including some from the 1960s.

California lawmakers sent the statute of limitations bill to Brown without a single dissenting vote. The bill’s signing “tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law,“ State Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, said in a statement. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired.“ Seventeen other states already have no statute of limitations on rape, according to the California Women’s Law Center. Cosby has repeatedly denied the sex abuse allegations made by dozens of women nationwide. He is facing just one criminal case stemming from sex abuse. A trial is set to begin in June in Pennsylvania.

In The World….

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►   After Dog Attack Kills Woman, Montreal Bans Pit Bulls

Starting Monday, residents of Montreal will no longer be allowed to own pit bulls “or pit bull-type dogs,“ the CBC reports. The controversial ban was put in place Tuesday by the city council, three months after a 55-year-old Montreal woman was killed by a neighbor’s dog that entered her backyard (possibly through a hole in the fence, the Montreal Gazette reported at the time). The dog, which was shot and killed by police after it attacked one of the officers who responded to the scene, was originally reported to be a pit bull; however, authorities are still awaiting official DNA test results to determine the dog’s breed, and the Humane Society claimed in July that the dog was registered as a boxer.

The vote came down 37-23 in favor of the ban, which had been decried by animal rights advocates and protested by pit bull supporters. “This is very serious. It’s not an object, it’s not the right to seize a car—it’s a right to take a member of your family and that should not (be) permitted,“ says one lawyer. But a city executive committee member argues, “A Montreal woman died because someone didn’t have control of their dog.“ The ban will also include Staffordshire terriers, any mix including a banned breed, and “any dog that presents characteristics of one of those breeds.“ However, current owners can apply for a permit to be allowed to keep their pets. Animal rights advocates plan to launch a court challenge.


►   Activists May Have Accidentally Doomed Penguin

Two South African students may have gotten in over their heads when they “liberated” a penguin from a South African marine park, the BBC reports. Surveillance video showed two still-unidentified students breaking into the enclosure at Bayworld marine park, grabbing the penguin, and driving it to the nearby shoreline, where they released it. The problem is that Buddy the penguin was raised in captivity and is “completely ill-equipped to survive in the wild,“ says the park manager. Staffers are searching up and down the South African coast, hoping Buddy will come back to land before he runs out of fat reserves in two or three weeks.

“The individuals stated that they did not agree with the penguins being kept in captivity and that their intention was to capture and then release a penguin back into the wild,“ says a Bayworld statement, per news24.com. The park has reported the theft to police and says the men’s lawyer has been in contact. The African penguin is an endangered species, with less than 20,000 breeding pairs in the wild. The loss of Buddy is especially bad for the park, as he was successfully paired with a mate. Penguins mate for life, and park officials worry Buddy’s mate, Francis, may not accept a new partner if Buddy does not return. What’s more, one of their two recently hatched chicks has died since his disappearance.


►   N. Korea Soldier Walks Across DMZ to Defect

South Korea’s military said Thursday that a North Korean soldier had crossed the border between the rivals to defect. South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said military officials were investigating the North Korean solider, who defected across the central-east portion of the military demarcation line, which is inside the 2.5-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone that separates the countries, the AP reports. The military provided no other details.

The Koreas have shared the world’s most heavily fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Despite the heavy military presence at the border, North Korean soldiers occasionally find room to sneak into the South. Another North Korean solider defected in June last year after crossing the military demarcation line. In 2012, a North Korean soldier managed to walk south of barbed-wire fences without being caught by guards, which led to criticism on how South Korean soldiers were guarding the border.


►   2 Nuns Falls in Love, Leave Church, Get Hitched

Two former nuns were joined in a civil union in Italy on Wednesday in a ceremony coming only four months after the heavily Catholic country approved same-sex partnerships. Identified only as Isabel and Federica, they met three years ago doing charitable work with drug addicts and gradually fell in love, reports the Guardian. Already “wed” to the church, there was only one option: the Franciscan nuns renounced their vocation so they could be together. Since then, they have spoken out against the church’s anti-gay stance. “God wants people happy, to live the love in the light of the sun,” Isabel told the newspaper La Stampa, per the Guardian. The pair tied the knot in a civil ceremony at town hall in Pinerolo on the edge of the Alps.

After the legal ceremony, the ex-nuns’ union was blessed by the Don Franco Barbero, a former priest and longtime supporter of gay marriage who was excommunicated in 2003, reports the Irish Times. Isabel and Federica are “ two lovely people, of intense faith and with serious studies behind them,“ Barbero said. “They prayed a lot about this and ... in the end, they took their decision knowing that not many would approve.“ The nuns weren’t the first to leave the church to be together. Last year, Vatican official Krzysztof Charamsa was defrocked after he left the church, declaring he was gay and wanted to be with the man he loved, per the Guardian.


►   ‘Most Unlucky Guy’ Gets Spider Bite on Penis—Again

A 21-year-old Australian man who will, understandably, only give his first name, Jordan, has been bitten by a spider on his penis ... twice. Both times, the tradesman was using a portable toilet at a building site when he was attacked by spiders hiding under the rim; the most recent incident happened in Sydney on Tuesday, five months after the first time. “I’m the most unlucky guy in the country at the moment,“ he tells the BBC, noting that when he felt that familiar sting, “I was like, ‘I can’t believe it’s happened again.‘“ He admits he “didn’t really want” to use a portable toilet again after the first bite, but on Tuesday, the toilets had just been cleaned, he checked under both seats, and he “thought it was my opportunity.“ He was wrong. He’s since been released from the hospital.

Contractor Admits Fraud in Braxton County , Fills New WV Contract with Out-of-State Workers

A Florida contractor confessed to defrauding workers on a Braxton County project, but still won a million-dollar state contract in Charleston. The contractor now could be in legal trouble again by not using West Virginia workers on the new job.

In August, Nomiki and Michael Valvlas pled guilty to fraud for violating federal wage-and-hour rules on a bridge contract with federal highway funds. Brian Stanley, director of marketing for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 53, said the company has changed its name from VHP Enterprises to International Rigging Group and got another state contract to spot-paint the Yeager Bridge.

“Cheating workers out of wages, misclassification and then lying on documents,“ he said, “and they just pled guilty to that. How can they come back to West Virginia and bid on another state project?“

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The Florida contractors who won the bid to spot-paint the Yeager Bridge in Charleston
confessed to federal fraud on another contract in Braxton County this summer.


Stanley claimed the contractor has brought all - or almost all - the workers for the Yeager Bridge project from out of state - even though the West Virginia Jobs Act requires that contracts paid for with public money use 75 percent in-state workers. Stanley said qualified West Virginians were turned away when they applied.

“I know of 14 local industrial painters who have bridge-painting experience - they’re journeymen - that applied,“ he said. “None of ‘em were contacted to be hired.“

He said the company hasn’t changed anything but its name, and International Rigging even uses the same Florida headquarters.

“That’s the same address as VHP. Same principal officers, same location,“ he said, “The equipment they used under VHP is the same equipment they use under International Rigging.“

Calls to the two companies rang to the same office, and both firms referred questions to the same attorney. That lawyer promised to call back and answer questions, but has not.

More information is online at media.wix.com.

WVDOH Reminds Groups About Events Approval

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The West Virginia Division of Highways would like to remind citizens, private organizations, and public agencies that any use of the Division of Highways’ roadways or right-of-way associated with any type of event (parades, races, walks, festivals, etc.) is subject to DOH approval. 

The DOH desires to review any such proposed use of DOH facilities primarily to ensure, to the extent possible, that the event is implemented in the safest manner possible with appropriate traffic control. 

Early coordination with the local DOH District Headquarters in advance of a proposed event is strongly encouraged.

For a complete list of District Headquarters and contact information, please refer to the DOH website, www.transportation.wv.gov.

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