There is State-wide attention focused on how Gilmer County continues to be mistreated by the WVBOE and the WVDOE.
Dr. Cindy Daniel’s name comes up often. Don’t expect any help from her.
The WV Association of School Administrators, comprised of school system superintendents, will go after her to protect one of its own if she gets out of line.
The WV School Board Association won’t help Gilmer County because that organization is strapped for cash to make it increasingly dependent on WVDOE money.
That renders the WVSBA toothless as an effective advocate for intervened counties.
WV’s politicians sent to Charleston won’t help because they are afraid of their shadows and cutting off of oil and gas money to keep them in office.
Things have become so bad within the WVSBA that at a recent meeting one of its officers leaped over to the WVBOE’s side as if that individual is focusing on upward mobility opportunities.
Dr. Martirano referred to high minded morality and ethics when he was involved with the Boone County intervention threat, but what have you seen him doing in Gilmer County to indicate that he practices what he preaches?
With all the impediments going against Gilmer County something admirable has happened as a result of news getting out in WV.
It is that the WVBOE’s reputation has been severely damaged from adverse attention it has garnered from its dictatorial and inept intervention policies and practices.
The growing adverse publicity has long run potential to help remove the WVBOE’s destructive strangle hold on K-12 education in WV.
For all the State’s children, thank you Gilmer County for standing up to Goliath.
You don’t have to rely on a sling shot, but you have something more powerful.
It is effective use of social media and the Internet to get truthful information to WV’s people to influence public opinion.
My board including our highly respected superintendent uses Gilmer County’s taped meetings for instructional purposes to learn what to avoid in running our school system.
We see your State-appointed superintendent micro managing your meetings, giving orders to your elected president, interfering with delegations, and even cutting in when board members want to speak to limit what they are allowed to say.
We observe extreme censorship to result in what gets on agendas and what gets into your meeting minutes.
Our superintendent comes to meetings fully prepared. When he has a slot on an agenda he provides in-depth information we have complete confidence in, and he answers all our questions when asked.
Our superintendent serves as the secretary to document what occurs during board meetings and we have excellent minutes for later reference.
All of us work together as a highly dedicated and coordinated team while exhibiting mutual respect to one another while we do our County’s business.
In three years not one word of anger has occurred against our superintendent or any board member.
Do we have spirited discussions. You bet.
Through them we learn from one another to enable us to make better decisions we can support after votes are cast.
When we watch what happens in Gilmer County we abhor the repressive treatment of your board, and we attribute your obvious leadership deficiencies to the WVBOE and the WVDOE.
Have you thought about selling your video tapes for instructional purposes? Hard to tell how much money you could make for your school system.
Wow, a lot of us showed up at 4 o’clock to find out the meeting was changed to 6 o’clock. There was a football game if you remember. Had to get there for the kids, could not stay till 6. Glenville people showed up to support Normantown. What was wrong with that? Seems a lot of “meetings” are scheduled to conflict with other events these days.
It’s simple to solve. Go watch the 9-10-15 Normantown town hall meeting video to hear the superintendent change his tune and hear his transporation director not back that up.
Read the Charleston Gazette article September 24 posted on the GFP along with multiple discussions on the Hur and GFP reporting.
BTW, would not imply imagined gender of a poster. It doesn’t work.
The meeting that was supposed to start at 4 but was put off to after 6. Now Glenville people are rabble rousers too? Guess anybody who disagrees fits the description?
G Devono said there was only a little toilet paper on the floor at the Normantown School meeting. Even his Transpotation Director was unwilling to support that much of a fabrication.
Did it get in the minutes that the Cedar Creek project was recommended against to the WVBOE at no use because there was not enough money to complete it because of inept State planning, corruption, and mismanagement? No!
Did it get in the minutes who made money off the dropped Cedar Creek project and how much they got? No!
Did it get in the minutes how much money was wasted for everything leading up to dropping the Cedar Creek project? No!
Did it get in the minutes that the Leading Creek School was going to be overbuilt because of not enough students so scarce school money would be wasted? No!
Did it get in the minutes to disclose the total amount of the County’s money spent on the failed Leading Creek school project? No!
Did it get in the minutes that there were concerns about sweet heart no bid contracts? No!
Did it get in the minutes that there were concerns about constructing the new grade school in a flood zone vulnerable to destruction like WV had recently to wipe our Richwood? No!
Did it get in the minutes that the new County school did not have enough classrooms to handle all the students properly? No?
Did it get in the minutes to disclose what the WV fire marshal found out about arson prep at Normantown Elementary? No!
Did it get in the minutes to disclose names of the select few elites GD assigned to secretly determine the future of K-12 education in the County? No!
Did it get in the minutes those in the County’s central office who were singled out for hefty pay raises by GD and how much they got? No!
Many more examples could be cited as examples the State does not want to disclose. Enough said.
Educators know that the best way to get a point across is to make something simple as possible instead of making it more complicated than necessary.
What could possibly be more symbolic of the State’s dictatorial control over our school system than what goes on with meeting agendas and minutes for school board meetings?
It is evident that the County’s elected school board is not allowed to get important items on agendas and meeting minutes are heavily censored by the State.
There is even failure when someone is scheduled to speak to inform the public what the topic is with only a listing of a speaker’s name.
Looked at the agenda when Dr. Cindy Daniel was here as an example. Just her name and nothing more.
When something like that happens how would members of the community know if they want to attend a meeting?
The State does not want regular community members to attend meetings so it can say that citizens are not interested in what goes on and they had their chance to speak out.
When a citizen says somethings at meetings the State will not allow as little as a one sentence summary of what they said to go into minutes.
That shows that what regular citizens say is unworthy of consideration so the attitude is why waste time by going to meetings to speak out?
When something comes up the State does not like to hear, disliked speakers are shut down abruptly and those the State likes are allowed to ramble at length without being shut down.
Dr. Cindy Daniel knows what is happening.
Dr. Martirano knows what is happening.
Michael Green of the WVBOE knows.
Their failure to take corrective action for something as basic as meeting agendas and minutes proves in a nutshell their overall approval of the State’s dictatorial control of Gilmer County’s schools, and their obvious disrespect and contempt for our citizens.
What meeting were you at? What 20 people had a more important prior commitment than the safety of their children or grandchildren? From watching the video, it was clear that almost half of the participants were rabble rousers from Glenville.
Bill S has not told the truth for so long doubt he can even spell the word. He has castigated rural children and families as poverty stricken, drug addicted, ignorant and uninformed over and over. Does Devono really thinks Simmons supports him by saying if he (Simmons) had the job he could would clear out the BOE Central Office and run it from his front porch? By saying he wouldn’t read more than a one page finance report and voted for no one else to see it? Watch the videos. Simmons reported many times how Ted Mattern told Gilmer’s Board to just hold hands with the State Board and dance. Smiled when he said it. Man isn’t smart enough to understand while he is doing a poor imitation of two step the State is doing the twist with Gilmer County’s money.
Bill says if you tell a lie often enough the majority will believe it.
What meeting were you at? Did you attend the Normantown meeting where Devono denied the pictures and denied that it was a possible arson while letters from and conversations with the WV Fire Marshall say it was being investigated as an arson? Simmons didn’t say any different than the state appointed superintendent did. Don’t make up tales. Talk to the board members who did take the time to attend and ask questions and called both the local fire department and state fire marshall’s office if you want to know the truth. From what I saw there it was Carl Armour and Norma Hurley .
G. Devono tried to deny the citizens public access to that meeting. He changed the meeting time without notifying the public so the fire chief, prosecuting attorney and 20 more people who showed up and wanted to attend weren’t notified and could not stay and wait two more hours more for it to start because of prior committments.
Devono told anyone who wasn’t a parent of a child in that school they had to leave. Cindy Daniels did put a stop to that.
What about the fires at the career center and Sand Fork elementary.What about the break in and theft at Troy elementary? Some said there was an attempt at a fire there. Where was Simmons then? What happened to his and G Devono’s reports on those investigations?
We better figure out who tells us the facts whether we like it or not. Sugar coated lies are killing this county. Best thing ever happened was Simmons resigning. To bad he didn’t have the courage of his convictions to follow through.
Google—studies of police officers in grade schools to get information to use to make up your own minds.
For one example from studies, a nationally known criminologist at the U. of Maryland concluded from studies that it “increases the number of behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.“
The same expert concluded that there is no evidence that officers in schools improves safety.
The WVDOE’s push for law enforcement at our new grade school, as usual, is based on reliance on personal opinion and emotion instead of defensible facts.
PK-12, higher education leaders
to discuss future of education in WV
during Sixth Annual Student Success Summit
Summit to focus on collaboration, action to improve state’s education systems
MORGANTOWN, WV – Nearly 500 education administrators, teachers, students, military leaders and community group members will join forces this week to find better ways to support students and increase educational achievement in the Mountain State.
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Department of Education will host the sixth annual statewide Student Success Summit on Wednesday, July 27 and Thursday, July 28 at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel and Conference Center in Morgantown. The Summit focuses on encouraging collaboration across the full length of the education pipeline. Representatives ranging from pre-school teachers to college presidents to student leaders are expected to be in attendance.
The conference will kick off with a panel discussion among education leaders to address the challenges and opportunities within the state’s education systems. Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission; Dr. Sarah Tucker, Chancellor of the state’s Community and Technical College System; Dr. Michael Martirano, State Superintendent of Schools; Michael Green, President of the State Board of Education and Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, Chief Career and Technical Education Officer for the West Virginia Department of Education will participate in the panel. The discussion will be moderated by Scott Finn, the CEO and Executive Director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
“This Summit offers a unique opportunity to fuel collaboration and innovation across the full education spectrum in West Virginia. From early learning through higher education and beyond, we have to ensure that our students are prepared to take the next step in their educations or careers — and succeed,” Dr. Hill said. “Increasing the number of students who are graduating with a high school diploma and earning a postsecondary certificate or degree is going to be a critical component in moving our economy forward and reinvigorating our communities. ”
This year’s conference theme is “Excellence in Action.” The event will feature more than 60 sessions that focus on sharing practical ideas that can have an immediate impact in classrooms and on campuses across the state.
“There is no other more important metric that validates our progress than our graduation rate,” said Dr. Michael Martirano. “We know a growing number of jobs of the future in West Virginia are going to require education beyond high school, so a focus on pursuing education postsecondary is critical. When more young people achieve and graduate, our entire state becomes stronger.”
Five high schools — Berkeley Springs, Paw Paw, Riverside, Spring Valley, Tolsia and Wayne County — will send teams of students to participate in a focused Youth Summit track of the conference. Students will learn leadership skills and strategies to build and strengthen a college-going culture in their communities. They will present what they have learned during the morning plenary session on July 28.
The Summit is sponsored by the Commission and the Department of Education, with support from the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts and the State’s military service units. Registration is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit www.cfwv.com.
Frontier squandered $4.5M in federal funds by padding invoices, suit alleges
Frontier Communications’ engineers figured it would cost $72,000 to bring fiber-optic internet service to Central Preston Middle School in Kingwood, one of nearly 200 schools selected six years ago to receive a broadband upgrade in West Virginia.
But Frontier later submitted an invoice to the state for nearly $304,000 — four times the estimated cost. West Virginia officials approved the extra expenses and paid Frontier with federal stimulus grant money.
inRead invented by Teads
The primary reason for the inflated price tag: Frontier added an $187,000 “loading” fee to its invoice.
A federal lawsuit unsealed last week alleges that Frontier padded 365 such invoices with loading fees that totaled $4.5 million — part of a scheme to drain unused stimulus funds that could have been steered to Frontier’s competitors and help expand high-speed internet across West Virginia.
On its invoices, Frontier defines loading fees as “indirect costs such as vehicles, accounting, administration, etc.”
In 2010, the federal government awarded West Virginia $126.3 million in stimulus funds to expand high-speed internet to schools, libraries, health clinics and government buildings.
As the project got up and running two years later, former broadband Project Director Lt. Col. Mike Todorovich issued a memo saying Frontier and other vendors wouldn’t be paid for administrative costs.
Federal stimulus grant rules prohibited state officials from paying Frontier for such costs, according to the lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by Citynet, a Frontier competitor.
“Indirect costs may not be reimbursed,” Todorovich wrote in February 2012.
An October 2010 agreement signed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin’s office seems to contradict Todorovich’s directive. The “memorandum of understanding” allowed the state to reimburse Frontier for “overhead costs” during the broadband project.
The memo indicates the company “may” bill for the extra costs on separate invoices. Frontier combined regular project costs — things like expenses for fiber cable — and overhead fees on the same invoice.
Todorovich’s superiors also apparently didn’t support his tight lid on the stimulus funds.
“Initially, state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato requested that Col. Todorovich create a ‘bucket of money’ that could be accessed by the state at any moment with no oversight or pre-approval to obtain the funds,” according to the lawsuit. “Col. Todorovich refused to allow the [stimulus funds] to be accessed unless it was to pay for construction already completed.”
In any case, the prohibition against reimbursing Frontier for administrative costs didn’t last long.
The state’s chief technology officer, Gale Given, started approving Frontier’s loading charges in August 2012, a month after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin hired her, according to the lawsuit.
Frontier submitted one invoice with a loading fee before Given, a former Verizon executive, was hired, according to the lawsuit. Afterward, all Frontier invoices contained the extra administrative expense.
Given, through a technology office spokeswoman, declined comment last week. Frontier and Citynet executives also would not comment.
In many cases, Frontier’s indirect-cost fee was higher than the estimated price for bringing high-speed internet to a particular site. Some examples:
An internet fiber project at a state planning and economic development agency in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle was expected to cost $3,400. Frontier charged $9,000 for administrative fees alone.
Bringing fiber to the Eastern Regional Jail was supposed to cost $5,100. Frontier’s loading fee was $8,300 on that project.
In Preston County, the loading fee was “259 percent of the actual cost of the project” to bring fiber to the middle school, according to the invoice Frontier submitted to the state.
Citynet’s lawsuit also takes issue with Frontier’s later decision to tack a $1,800 processing fee onto each invoice that paid Frontier for fiber work inside state facilities. A Frontier engineer claimed it took 16 Frontier employees a combined four hours to process each invoice, according to a memo included with the lawsuit.
Frontier’s processing fees — inserted into 327 invoices — totaled $593,000. Given approved the invoices.
Citynet alleges that Frontier padded its invoices as part of a fraudulent scheme to exhaust stimulus funds.
The state had set aside $42 million of stimulus funds to build 1,800 miles of fiber, but it reduced that mileage to 915 miles after discovering many schools set to receive fiber already had it.
“Since Frontier had already determined it could build the 915 miles of fiber for approximately $22.7 million, it and the state realized there would be a surplus of $20 million or more in funds that could be awarded to Frontier’s competitors,” the lawsuit claims.
The state wound up paying Frontier $40.5 million for fiber construction. But Frontier built only 675 miles of fiber. The statewide project was completed two years ago.
Citynet filed its lawsuit against Frontier under the False Claims Act in 2014, but the complaint remained under seal until last week. Citynet wanted the federal government to intervene in the case, but the U.S. Justice Department declined to join the lawsuit.
EVERYONE seems to be ganging up on “free trade” right now, from Donald Trump to alt-right chappies like Vox Day.
They are arguing that the market is soulless, and doesn’t care a whit if communities are hollowed out when the market moves on or when cheap products produced by low-wage Chinese take American jobs. Here is Day quoting SF old master Jerry Pournelle:
But do understand, what is conserved is lower prices. Nor social stability. Not communities. Not family life. Indeed those are often disrupted; it’s part of the economic model. Under free trade theory, it’s better to have free trade than community preservation, better to have ghost towns of people displaced because their jobs have been shipped overseas; better to have Detroit as a wasteland than a thriving dynamic industrial society turning out tail finned Cadillacs and insolent chariots and supporting workers represented by rapacious unions in conflict with pitiless corporate executives.
First of all, we don’t have completely free trade, never have. Secondly, as Deirdre McCloskey makes very clear in her Bourgeois Era books, the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years is founded not on accumulation, not on “free trade” but on innovation.
Wait, she was wrong. It was not “innovation” that did it but the failure to block innovation.
You can have all the capitalist accumulation, the freest trade in the world, and the world full of innovators. But if you allow the ruling class and its supporters to block innovation—and they will if you give them half a chance—then you are back to the good old days of economic stasis.
When the innovators are allowed to sell their innovations then you get disruption, because the folks doing stuff the old way are going to have to accept lower wages and even get put out of work. We humans hate that and will do anything to block the innovators and continue to enjoy our customary way of life and income.
I would argue that the history of the last 200 years is the history of the failed attempts to block the innovators. They tried to stop the machine spinners. They went in for machine wrecking in the Luddite riots. They forced automobiles to a speed limit of 6 mph. They licensed labor unions to prevent management from changing working conditions. Communism is an attempt to return to the Eden of perfect community before its disruption by Modern Industry. Fascism is an attempt to return to the Eden of blood and tribe. Environmentalism is an attempt to return to an Eden of an unspoiled Earth, and that is why environmentalists want to block the innovations of fracking and GMO foods.
Yes, Jerry Pournelle is right. Unblocked innovation means an end to social stability. But you can’t have that social stability unless the rulers have the power to block innovation. And we are to understand that in the days when the ruling class had the power to block innovation society practiced a downward mobility where second sons of the nobility shoved aside the middle class and the second sons of the middle class shoved aside the lower class, who just had fewer babies and died faster than the higher classes. You can have your stability, but it comes at a price that is paid by the traditionally marginalized.
And let us not forget what happened in Detroit. It wasn’t free trade that killed Detroit but political power. The ruling class gave the auto companies and the labor unions special privileges that allowed them to jack their prices and wages way up above the market. It was great fun, for the workers and the managers, while it lasted.
You can say if you like that it was free trade that killed Detroit. But what would it have taken to save it? 15% tariffs on imports, or 50% tariffs? What about a suspension of labor laws to force wages down? And what about if and when the import car companies started building cars in the non-union South?
The point is that the argument about “free trade” misses the point. The point is that reality always wins in the end. You can take your pick. Do you want to surrender to market prices and let overpriced and overprivileged Detroit go to the wall? Or do you want to wait for a Great Depression or an invasion? That’s the way things used to be settled. If your ruler wasn’t up to the mark then sooner or later some warrior lord would invade and loot and plunder his good rich acres. These days we do it metaphorically. We fail to keep up with the market at our peril. But our modern peril is not the old peril where all the men are killed and the women sent away into slavery. The peril is that we must accept the verdict of the market and work for less wages that in the past.
And there is more. The campaign against “free trade” makes a rather big assumption. It assumes that politicians and regulators can engineer a better social outcome than market prices. Really? I’d say that the record is pretty clear. It is that politicians and regulators suck at delivering anything except dividing the electorate and promising free stuff to their supporters.
Why in the world, in the decade after the real-estate meltdown and the Obamacare disaster, can anyone suggest that monkeying with the market is going to produce a good outcome for America and American workers?
I have a better idea! Let’s unwind some of the government programs that make it difficult for workers to get jobs. Let’s abolish the minimum wage, credentialism, child labor laws, payroll taxes and their unjust pension programs. Let’s make it easy for employers to hire workers and let’s make it easy to fire them. Let’s encourage workers to save for a rainy day and for their retirement without the government getting in the middle.
In the old days, before the welfare state, in the dark and savage days of the 19th century, almost every worker, high and low, belonged to a fraternal association or a mutual-aid society. These organizations sprang up, starting in the 18th century, when the dispersion of people across the wide world encouraged them to create an artificial notion of brotherhood beyond the boundaries of blood kin. So they imagined themselves in a brotherhood of Masons, who were not manual workers; Elks and Eagles, who were not beasts of the field. And they created a virtual community, so that an itinerant worker could find a friend wherever he showed up, and also buy insurance against death and a helping hand for his widow. But the welfare state put all that out of business.
Let’s get things straight. It is utter folly to bet against the market. The market is today’s economic reality and the only thing we know is that the reality and the prices will change tomorrow. The way to preserve community and family is to preserve community and family, which were and are the best bulwarks against the cruel winds of change.
The only certain thing is that if you let government start messing around with the market process it will screw things up and make them worse. Deteroit’s problem started when the government repealed the laws against combinations and allowed the auto cartel to flourish and jack its wages and prices into the stratosphere. Without that very unfree trade policy then maybe Detroit wouldn’t have crashed, but only declined into an impecunious old age.
Still, if we didn’t have economic ruin and collapse what would government do then, poor thing?
WV AG Announces Savings Generated by Disability Fraud Unit
CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s new partnership with the Social Security Administration has generated $1.2 million in projected savings for the state and federal governments in its six months of operation.
The Cooperative Disability Unit, which the Attorney General’s Office joined in December, investigates suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims. It helps resolve questions of potential fraud in many instances before benefits are ever paid. That helps disability examiners make informed decisions and ensure payment accuracy, which in turn generates significant savings for taxpayers.
“I am very pleased with our progress,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Not only has this program saved a lot of money, but it also is beginning to change the culture in our state so these monies go to people who actually need the benefit.”
Charleston’s unit joins two investigators and an analyst from the Attorney General’s Office with representatives from SSA, its Office of the Inspector General and the state’s Disability Determination Section.
The Charleston CDI Unit is the first of its kind in West Virginia. Nationally, the CDI program is one of the most successful anti-fraud initiatives with regard to federal disability programs. It operates 37 units covering 32 states, the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico.
Members of the public should report suspected disability fraud to the Social Security Fraud Hotline; send U.S. Mail to PO Box 17768, Baltimore, MD, 21235; fax 410.597.0118; or call 800.269.0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
Why don’t American students really get math? Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems.
Tucker describes a vicious cycle.
“We are mainly recruiting teacher candidates from the bottom half of the kids who go to college,” said Tucker. “These kids come out of high school with a very shaky command of high school math and eventually become teachers who can show their students the steps for doing a long division problem, but can’t tell them why it works. So when their students get to high school, they can’t really do algebra either because they don’t understand how the arithmetic works.”
In a new report released by NCEE, researcher Ben Jensen looks at what America can learn from how teacher-training institutions in top performing countries prepare elementary school teachers for the classroom. He examined how four systems – Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong – arm teachers with a rich understanding of the subject areas they will teach and how their future students will learn that content. Jensen found that these countries provide four lessons for the U.S.:
Raise selectivity standards for future educators. The report notes that this looks differently across the four systems. While Finland maintains very high admissions standards for entry to teacher preparation programs, Japan instead has the checkpoint at the end of training programs, requiring teachers to sit for a tough licensure exam.
Require that elementary school teachers specialize in content areas. Most primary school teachers in the U.S. teach all subjects. In many top countries, teacher candidates specialize in either math and science or language and social studies.
Focus on content knowledge. Trainee teachers in these countries study the content they will actually be teaching, say fourth grade fractions, not advanced college math. The idea is to give them a deep understanding not just of the content but also how students learn it.
Create structured professional learning communities. Many top countries embrace career ladders where master teachers formally train teachers in their first few years in the classroom.
“There’s a generalist approach to primary education that says subject expertise isn’t really important, that the general level of content knowledge that most adults have is enough to prepare them to be elementary school teachers, but no high achieving country would agree,” said Jensen.
But Jensen says that the case of Finland shows that schools don’t need to recruit astrophysicists to teach primary mathematics, just educators steeped in the curriculum they’re going to be putting in front of their students.
“In your first week you are handed the elementary school curriculum and you are told that for the next few years you are going to be taught not only the content of that but a deep conceptual understanding of the skills underlying that curriculum. And here’s the most important thing: You will be taught all the questions students are likely to have, the difficulties they are likely to encounter in learning that curriculum,” said Jenson. “People are not required to have degrees in advanced calculus, not required to have PhDs, they are required to have a very deep, conceptual understanding of what is taught in elementary schools.
The lessons may be more critical now, as most states continue to hold students to the more rigorous standards outlined by the Common Core. As reported by The Hechinger Report last month, “depth of understanding was hailed by its architects as a cornerstone of the Common Core, a set of educational guidelines for what students need to know in each grade in English and math that have been adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The problem is that most elementary school teachers did not learn math that way, and many now struggle to teach to the new standards.”
Sharon Robinson – president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, an interest group representing the nation’s 800 schools of education – thinks the report makes some important points, particularly around selectivity.
“GPA is not the issue,” said Robinson. “The average GPA for candidates is over 3.0, that’s for their work in college, and that leads us to ask, ‘what are we missing here?’ Is the college work not adequately rigorous or focused in a way that leads to candidates who will be able to learn to teach? We are also looking at selection at the hiring end. We are getting more folks interested in using measures that actually document candidates capacity to teach.”
Robinson, however, faults the report for a “blaming and shaming” tone that makes it harder to “overcome the defensiveness that is provoked by these conversations.”
The Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Roane County is scheduled to close permanently Thursday, July 28 at 6 p.m. The center has been operating out of the Geary Elementary School in Left Hand, WV
Survivors of the June 22-29 disaster can still find help just a phone call away. Many of the services available at the DRCs are also available on the Helpline run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Helpline operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, until further notice. By calling 800.621.3362 (voice 711 or video relay services) or 800.462.7585 for TTY users, you can use the Helpline to:
• Register with FEMA. • Provide a change of address, telephone and bank account numbers and insurance information to avoid disaster assistance processing delays. • Receive information about FEMA home inspections. • Get other questions answered about federal disaster assistance. • Ask questions about a letter from FEMA. • Learn how to appeal a FEMA decision. All applicants may appeal. You can also register with FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov. If you want to discuss your application, you must have your nine-digit FEMA registration number and zip code.
You can still visit the other DRCs. Representatives from FEMA, various state agencies and the U.S. Small Business Administration are at the centers to answer your questions on disaster assistance or low-interest loans. The remaining centers in our area are open in:
Clay County Clay County High School, 1 Panther Dr., Clay WV 25043
Nicholas County City of Richwood City Hall, 6 White Ave., Richwood, WV 26261
Nicholas County Birch River Elementary School, 379 Birch River Rd., Birch River, WV 26610
Webster County City Council Rm., Webster Springs Municipal Bldg., Webster Springs, WV 26288
The centers are open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Sundays.
Researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have found a surprising explanation for the improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay: cleaner air.
Professor Keith Eshleman in the center’s Frostburg office said in a statement Tuesday that his team found nearly universal improvement in water quality since 1986 across the Upper Potomac River Basin. The area includes parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Eshleman says the improvement is mainly due to reduced levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxides following implementation of the Clean Air Act in 1990. The law limited emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Eshleman says the reductions lowered the amount of excess nitrogen falling across the region and causing algae blooms in waterways.
► Commissioner: 97 Percent of Clendenin Elementary Damaged
Authorities say that almost all of Clendenin Elementary School has sustained flood damage.
Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy tells local media about 97 percent of the school was damaged during last month’s floods.
Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Deurring says school officials will first need to speak with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials before determining when or if the school will reopen.
Whenever a building is more than 50 percent damaged, it has to be brought into compliance with national flood insurance policy. Deurring says it will cost about $3.6 million to repair the building — a cost that doesn’t include bringing it up to current codes.
Clendenin students are planned to attend six to eight portable classrooms in front of Bridge Elementary when the school year starts August 08.
► Disaster SNAP benefits through state DHHR
Residents impacted by the June flood, who are normally not eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, may now apply for Disaster SNAP benefits.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is allowing residents in 12 West Virginia counties to apply for D-SNAP benefits through July 31.
Those counties include: Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster.
“You don’t have to have received SNAP benefits in the past. This is for anyone in the community,” said Nancy Exline, commissioner for the state DHHR’s Bureau for Children and Families, ahead of a Tuesday news conference at the Kanawha County DHHR office in Charleston.
Eligibility for D-SNAP is based on a household’s net income, Exline said.
“Normally under SNAP we look at gross income, so we can look at your net income. You can make up to $1,600 and below that and you can get $194 in SNAP benefits,” she explained.
Some victims lost everything but the clothes on their back following storms on June 23 that washed away homes and claimed nearly two dozen lives. A Blue Creek man, who did not want to provide his name to MetroNews, said his trailer was destroyed.
“The water came up and flooded everything. Never seen it that high before,” he said.
The man, with the help of his friend, was at the DHHR office Tuesday to sign up for D-SNAP.
“There’s a lot of people up there that don’t even have a car to get out to get the assistance, so they’re stuck,” the woman said about helping the man. “He needs help. He should qualify for everything.”
The woman, who also wanted to remain nameless, said it took her two days to find her friend after not hearing from him.
“He has cut our grass and he knew my mother for 20-25 years, so we went looking for him because we knew since we didn’t hear from him that something was up,” she said.
Exline said residents who may not have had water damage can still apply. She said if you lost power, food or any other necessary items, you can still qualify.
“People lost staples from their cabinets. They lost whole refrigerator full of food, so this allows them to have a little bit of extra to catch up,” she said. “Come in and make an application. The only thing you’re going to lose is maybe the opportunity to get some extra benefits for your family to buy some food.”
D-SNAP can be used to purchase food, but cannot be used to buy alcohol, tobacco or non-food items. The benefits must be used within 120 days.
To apply, residents should bring a photo ID, documentation of their residence during the time of the disaster, verification of all income received (receipts) during June 23 through July 22 of this year, verification of assets like checking and savings accounts and verification of all disaster-related expenses.
The benefits will be made available to the residents within one day of the application, Exline said.
“It’s not anything they have to wait on. It’s immediate. They’ll be able to start buying something the next day,” she said.
Residents in the 12 counties can apply for D-SNAP benefits at the following locations:
Clay DHHR 94 Main Street
Clay, WV 25043
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Fayette DHHR 1400 Virginia Street
Oak Hill, WV 25901
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Rainelle Medical Center
645 Kanawha Avenue
Rainelle, WV 25962
M-F 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
4285 Cedar Lakes Road
Ripley, WV 25271
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
4190 W. Washington Street
Charleston, WV 25313
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Clendenin Health Center
107 Koontz Avenue
Clendenin, WV 25045
M-F 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
8209 Court Avenue
Hamlin, WV 25523
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
174 Route 3, East
Union, WV 24983
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
707 Professional Park Drive
Summersville, WV 26651
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
#2 Elray Business Park
Marlinton, WV 24954
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
677 Ripley Road, Suite 3
Spencer, WV 25276
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
320 Summers Street, Suite A
Hinton, WV 25951
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
Webster DHHR 110 North Main Street
Webster Springs, WV 26288
M-F 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Sat. 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 – 6:00 pm
► Elkview Shopping Center Can’t Reopen for at Least 2 Months
Elkview residents will have to wait at least two more months for a shopping center to reopen after an access bridge collapsed earlier last month during massive flash-flooding.
A new bridge to Crossings Mall isn’t expected to be completed for at least another eight weeks.
Beth Abruzzino, director of facilities maintenance for Plaza Management, told shopping center tenants in an email that the ownership expects construction to begin within a week and take eight weeks.
In the month since the floods, little progress has been made on the bridge that connects customers and employees to restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores and a hotel in the shopping center.
Abruzzino says the reason for the delay was that the bridge had to be permitted by multiple agencies.
► NASCAR’s Hamlin to Head to West Virginia for Flood Aid
NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin is heading to southern West Virginia to help out after deadly floods ravaged the region.
A news release from The Greenbrier resort says that on Thursday evening, Hamlin will hand out toys and school supplies to Greenbrier County students affected by the June 23 floods. He’ll be at the White Sulphur Springs train station.
Kyle Larson, who competes in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, will accompany Hamlin on Thursday.
The floods killed 23 people and devastated homes, businesses and infrastructure. Greenbrier County accounted for 15 of the 23 deaths.
10 Powerful Lines from Michelle Obama’s DNC Speech
1. “We explain when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you do not stop to their level. Our motto is when they go low, you go high.“
2. “We urge [our daughters] to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith.“
3. “I want someone with the proven strength to persevere, who knows this job and takes it seriously, someone who knows the issues are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.“
4. “I want a president with a record of public service, someone whose record shows our children we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves.“
5. “Leaders like Hillary Clinton who has the guts and the grace to keep coming back and putting those cracks on that highest and hardest glass ceiling until she finally breaks through, lifting all of us along with her.“
6. “What I most admire about Hillary is she never bucks under pressure; she never takes the easy way out. Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life.“
7. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth.“
8. “In this election, we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired, or frustrated, or cynical.“
9. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.“
10. “Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.“
If Red were to get out of Shawshank State Prison today, he’d never be able to find the big oak tree “like something out of a Robert Frost poem” where Andy Dufresne told him to dig, because that tree is history. Authorities say what was left of the Lucas, Ohio tree made famous by the movie was toppled last week by strong winds, the Mansfield News Journal reports. Half of the tree, which was on private property but could easily be seen from the edge of Malabar Farm State Park, fell down in July 2011 when the tree was split by lightning. Authorities believe the tree, which attracted thousands of visitors every year, was around 200 years old.
The tree was part of the “Shawshank Trail” of Ohio locations from the beloved 1994 movie, and tourist authorities say the loss will leave some visitors heartbroken. “The tree symbolizes hope” to visitors, Jodie Snavely, an official with the Mansfield/Richland Convention and Visitors Bureau, tells the New York Times. “When they can actually come and see that, it’s very touching to them, and it means a lot to them.“ But all hope is not lost: Snavely says the half of the tree that came down in 2011 is on display at the former Ohio State Reformatory, which played Shawshank in the movie and is now a museum.
► Michael Jordan ‘Deeply Troubled’ at Racial Tension, Police Shootings
Michael Jordan is speaking out—and taking action—with regard to the social unrest in America right now. “As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers,“ the basketball legend wrote in a letter released to The Undefeated. “Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine.“
Jordan also announced grants of $1 million each to Community-Police Relations (launched by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in May) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, both of which are working on improving relationships between law enforcement and the community. As The Undefeated notes, Jordan has been criticized in the past for not taking much of a public stand in terms of advocacy. His rep says that Jordan has always been committed to diversity, “but he’s always been very private and personal about many of these things.“ Click for more from his letter.
► Dallas PD Applications Up 344%
After five police officers were murdered in Dallas July 7, applications to join the city’s police force are up 344%, CNN reports. Four days after the shootings, the city’s police chief urged Black Lives Matter protesters to join the force if they wanted to see changes. “We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in,“ he said. From June 8 to June 20, there were 136 applications submitted to the department; from July 8 to July 20, there were 467. As CNN notes, the department has been beset by morale problems for years, partially due to its low starting pay of less than $45,000 per year. In other parts of Texas, starting pay ranges from $52,176 to $63,757.
► Bus Driver Admits to Raping Student, Walks Free
A 35-year-old former school bus driver won’t serve time in jail after pleading guilty to raping a 15-year-old student in Hamilton County, Tenn. On Thursday, Judge Barry Steelman accepted Alexander Rodriquez’s plea deal for aggravated statutory rape, which included a four-year suspended sentence, though he questioned why prosecutors didn’t want to put the man behind bars. “We did point out that [Rodriquez] had already served 100 days,“ his defense lawyer tells the Chattanooga Times Free Press, adding there were “credibility issues” with the victim. Rodriquez will now be placed on supervised sex offender probation for 10 years and must wear a GPS monitor. But the victim’s father—who’s suing Rodriquez and the Hamilton County Board of Education for $10 million, per the Free Press—says it’s not enough.
“We were immediately turned off by the fact that there was no jail time,“ he says. “I’m disappointed that somebody that commits a crime sexually, especially against a child, gets treated like a DUI [offender],“ he adds. “For me and my family, this has been an absolutely heartbreaking experience.“ The victim told authorities that Rodriquez drove her from Sale Creek High School to a bus loading station last March, then took her to a Super 8, where he forced her to perform oral sex and raped her, saying, “I’m trying to make it hurt,“ per the Chattanoogan. After authorities called Rodriquez looking for the girl, she said he dropped her off an hour’s walk from her house and told her to tell her parents she had been with a friend. He was later arrested, paid a $15,000 bond, and was released.
► Fort Myers PD: Club Shooting ‘Not an Act of Terror’
Authorities are now saying that a shooting early Monday at a Florida nightclub that killed two and wounded 17 wasn’t an act of terror, but they’re not yet saying what exactly prompted it, the AP reports. Officials at a Fort Myers hospital, just a few miles from where the shooting took place after a teen event at Club Blu, say two of the injured remain in critical condition, and two in fair condition. The shooting took place right as parents were coming to pick their kids up, a post on the club’s Facebook page said Monday, noting “we are deeply sorry for all involved” and that it tried to make the gathering for kids ages 12 to 17 a “safe place to have a good time,“ with at least eight armed security guards present, a club co-owner tells the News-Press. “There was nothing we could do,“ she says. “A car rolled up and just started shooting.“ Three people have been detained for questioning so far, per NBC News.
The News-Press reports that one of the two teens killed was local basketball star Stef’An Strawder, a senior at Lehigh Senior High School who wanted to play for a Division I college team. The 18-year-old was shot in his right shoulder as he left the club and headed to the parking lot, his mom, Stephanie White, says. Strawder’s sister, 19-year-old Sharrelle, was also shot and sustained a leg injury. “Why him? Why Stef?“ his mom says. “No matter where he went, everyone invited him into their home like he was their own. People loved him.“ The other victim was Sean Archilles (a Fort Myers PD release spells it “Shawn”), a 14-year-old who also loved playing basketball, his dad tells the News-Press. Governor Rick Scott said in a statement he’d be heading to Fort Myers on Monday, reports the New York Times, which notes the shooting took place just 43 days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
► NPS Director: ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Sexual Misconduct at Parks
Two well-publicized patterns of misconduct that went ignored for years now have the National Park Service hammering hard on a “zero tolerance” culture when it comes to sexual harassment—and Director Jonathan Jarvis isn’t mincing words. Per the Washington Post, Jarvis sent an email Wednesday to about 22,000 NPS workers: “When incidents of harassment are reported, I expect [Park Service] managers to follow up on those allegations,“ Jarvis wrote. And not just investigate, but also hand down disciplinary measures if the accusations are found to be true, which apparently didn’t happen at both Grand Canyon National Park and Canaveral National Seashore, where a longtime pattern of harassment was discovered. Two NPS managers have been promoted to help address this issue, which National Parks Traveler notes can often be difficult due to personnel and labor union rules.
The Grand Canyon probe received much of the attention, with a federal investigation finding a “what happens on the river stays on the river” culture, including female rafting guides pressured to have sex with male colleagues, inappropriate touching and remarks, and retaliation when they rebuffed advances. Christine Lehnertz, one of the promoted managers, has been named the Grand Canyon’s superintendent, replacing Dave Uberuaga, who retired amid allegations that he dismissed formal sexual harassment complaints. “In the midst of a very bright up, the Centennial year, we have learned of some very dark downs,“ Lehnertz said in an email last week to employees. “Some of our NPS colleagues have suffered immeasurable harm, and the outrageous misconduct of a few park employees has driven dedicated professionals away from federal service.“ Among other changes Jarvis announced: a confidential hotline victims can call, an employee survey dealing directly with the issue, and the office that looks into harassment complaints reporting directly to him.
► Man Drives 10K Cans to Michigan, Faces Prison Time
About three months ago, Brian Everidge was stopped for speeding just north of Detroit. He was behind the wheel of a Budget box truck whose contents could land him in prison for up to five years: more than 10,000 aluminum cans. The Guardian reports that just as Seinfeld’s Kramer and Newman once had the bright idea to drive recycled bottles and cans from New York to Michigan to cash in on the state’s higher bottle deposit, Everidge was allegedly making a Kentucky-to-Michigan run to do something similar. At 10 cents a pop, Everidge stood to get $1,000 in Michigan versus $0 in Kentucky, which has no bottle deposit; instead, he faces a $5,000 fine and prison time for the felony charge, which is specific to those attempting to return more than 10,000 cans, reports the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.
Officer Clifford Lyden, who stopped Everidge on April 27, testified on Thursday that the Michigan man told him the cans were from Lexington, Ky; and that he didn’t pay the deposit on them. (The deposit cost is simply added to the price of the beverage when purchased.) But Everidge’s defense argues that because he was pulled over for speeding, he was merely attempting to attempt to return the bottles, and thus “caught too early,“ with the charge of “beverage return of nonrefundable bottles” not actually applying. Livingston County District Judge Suzanne Geddis determined his case will go to trial. One Michigan law professor says Everidge is unlikely to do time given the $35,000 annual price tag to imprison someone. Michigan’s bottle bill mandates a refund higher than any other state, reports the Bottle Bill Resource Guide, and the state boasts the highest redemption rate as well: 94.2% in 2014.
► Guy Skip TSA Security, Board Plane
He didn’t have a ticket, or even ID, yet a 25-year-old man was able to board a plane in Dallas last July. Authorities say Damarias Cockerham, caught on surveillance video, walked through a security checkpoint at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport “without being stopped by a TSA agent” and boarded an American Airlines flight to Guatemala; once aboard, he spoke with his girlfriend for four minutes. He was then kicked off the plane by a ticket agent who chased him, though police didn’t arrive for another 14 minutes, reports CBS DFW. Cockerham eventually told authorities “he made some bad choices” but “didn’t want his girlfriend going down there and being with the wrong guy,“ a police report reads, per the Dallas Morning News.
Police say search dogs “exhibited a positive response for the presence of energetic materials” in Cockerham’s vehicle, parked at a nearby curb, but nothing dangerous was ever found. Cockerham—who slipped through an unused metal detector as a TSA agent looked at his cellphone—pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and was handed a 90-day jail term. A former Dallas police chief says the surveillance video should now be used as training for “every security personnel within the entire air world.“ The TSA, which is still investigating, says it has “made a number of adjustments to checkpoints, including adding glass panel barriers and enhanced passenger routing gates, which were installed at all checkpoints within a month.“
► Disney World Surprise Ends in DUI Disaster: Cops
A Colorado dad who’d planned to surprise his family with a trip to Disney World was headed to the airport with them early Thursday when an alleged drunk driver crashed into their minivan, dashing the Disney plans and putting all four family members in the hospital, CBS Denver reports. Per GoFundMe, Ryan Bragazzi was stuck in traffic with his fiancee, Jessica, and their two young daughters, 7-year-old Graelyn and 5-year-old Abriella, around 2:30am as, coincidentally, police were investigating a different DUI incident near Monument. Suddenly, a speeding vehicle smashed into them, shoving their minivan into and underneath a FedEx semi-truck. “They did absolutely nothing wrong and they received the brunt end of this for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time,“ Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis tells CBS.
All four were taken from the scene by ambulance with severe injuries, including a head wound for Jessica and broken ribs and vertebrae for Bragazzi, as well as a laceration on his back. Graelyn was admitted to a local children’s hospital with unspecified injuries; CBS notes her younger sister was also treated. The GoFundMe page, which has already raised more than $6,000 toward an $8,000 goal, was reportedly put in place by a relative who notes Bragazzi, the family’s main breadwinner, will be laid up and out of work for a couple of months. Meanwhile, Lewis reminds people that a drunk driver can strike at any time. “It is not limited to just a Friday or Saturday night or a special weekend,“ he tells CBS.
► Vegans Furious Over Doughnut Shop’s Job Ad
An Oregon doughnut shop is hiring—just not any vegans or vegetarians. A job ad for Pip’s Original Doughnuts in Portland describes the ideal candidate as someone with “a friendly, outgoing personality,“ but “no non-medical, non-religious dietary restrictions” that “would stop you from tasting, accurately representing our treats, and maintaining quality control.“ Given that PETA recently named Portland as America’s “most vegan-friendly city,“ the ad is not going over well, reports Oregon Live. “Won’t return now that I know you discriminate against vegetarians,“ one customer writes on the bake shop’s Facebook page. But co-owner Nate Snell isn’t budging. “After receiving as much hate email as we have in the last two days, I’m more steadfast and sure of our position than ever,“ he writes.
Snell says employees are required to taste shop items that contain bacon, gluten, soy, dairy, and nuts. Those unable to do so “would place an undue burden on our ability to maintain the quality of our food and the health of our customers and employees.“ The ad is perfectly legal since dietary preference isn’t protected under employment laws, reports KGW. But “it’s really heartbreaking that we live in a society where people feel like they have to use intimidation and fear in order to force their own personal viewpoints on others,“ a Pip’s post reads, per Willamette Week. Snell suggests vegans and vegetarians apply and “suggest some workarounds.“ Otherwise, they could try Los Angeles’ new Donut Farm, which makes 15 varieties of vegan doughnuts, per the Los Angeles Times.
Latvian women are tallest in the world, with an average height of 5-foot-7, according to a new study in the journal eLife. The same study, based on 2014 data, finds Dutch men tower over the rest at an even 6 feet on average, reports the BBC. The US—home to the third tallest men and fourth tallest women in 1914—now sits at the 37th and 42nd spot, respectively. Here are the top 5 “tall” countries:
A Colombian described as one of history’s biggest cocaine dealers was sentenced to 35 years in prison Monday by a Manhattan judge who called the scope of his crimes “staggering.“ Known as El Loco, Daniel Barrera Barrera, 48, was sentenced by Judge Gregory Woods, who rejected a defense lawyer’s request for leniency on the grounds that his client tried to cooperate, urged others to surrender, and had rescued victims of kidnappings, the AP reports. The sentence included a $10 million forfeiture and a $10 million fine. “He is dangerous,“ Woods said as he imposed a sentence requested by the US government. “Too short a sentence would provide him the opportunity to commit additional crimes.“
The judge said evidence demonstrated that Barrer used to threaten or kill individuals who owed his drug organization money or who posed a threat to his business. Prosecutors said he shipped at least 720 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the US as part of a massive drug dealing operation that sent drugs to four continents and utilized a submersible vehicle to transport drugs. Barrera had admitted distributing 400 tons of cocaine worldwide annually from 1998 to 2011 with an organization backed by lethal drug cartels and terrorist groups. Barrera was captured in Venezuela in 2012 and extradited to the US in 2013. He pleaded guilty a year later. Miami US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer said Barrera’s reach worldwide was unprecedented. “Today’s sentencing closes the chapter on Barrera’s reign as one of the largest cocaine traffickers in history,“ he said.
► In Gucci’s Not-Too-Distant Past: A Sensational Murder
The name Gucci is familiar enough, but many of today’s fans of the luxury line may not be aware of the sensational murder that shook the brand two decades ago in Italy. The Guardian revisits the case of Maurizio Gucci, the last actual “Gucci” to run the company, who was shot to death in his office foyer in Milan in March 1995. But this isn’t a whodunnit: His ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani, was eventually convicted of arranging the murder and served 16 years in prison until her release two years ago. As part of her release, Reggiani had to get a job, the first of her life, and she now works as a design consultant for a costume jewellery firm named Bozart. “We were a beautiful couple and we had a beautiful life, of course,” recalls Reggiani, who, for the record, still maintains her innocence.
That’s a far cry from the flippant remark she gave to an Italian camera crew not too long after her release, when asked why she didn’t shoot her ex-husband herself instead of hiring a hitman. “My eyesight is not so good,“ she responded. “I didn’t want to miss.“ And then there was her one-word diary entry the day of her husband’s death, which translates to “paradise.“ The public’s general “amnesia” about the murder strikes reporter Abigail Haworth as unusual because “the saga has everything: glamour, greed, sex, death, betrayal, raging status anxiety,“ she writes. “It probably says more about the primal allure of a name like Gucci than all the sales figures in the world.“ Click for the full story, which includes an interview with Maurizio Gucci’s girlfriend at the time of his death—Reggiani ordered her evicted from her ex’s luxury apartment just hours after his killing.
► NZ Plans to Kill Every Rat, Feral Cat, and Possum
New Zealand could soon be the envy of New York. The country has announced a “world-first” project to exterminate all non-native pests, including possums, stoats, feral cats, and rats by 2050, reports the Guardian. Why? Well, the pests, which the government says cost $2.3 billion per year, also kill about 25 million native birds each year, including 20 Kiwis per week. Only 70,000 Kiwis are now known to exist. The Royal Society of New Zealand Forest and Bird says it’s excited about the plan, though other groups have been working to eradicate the pests for years. “I think 2050 is a conservative goal, we could be on track to doing it by 2040,“ a rep says.
Some 7,000 hectares of New Zealand are pest-free thanks to poison and strategic fencing, but “our ambition is that by 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats, and possums,“ Prime Minister John Key says, calling this the “most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world.“ Predator Free New Zealand—with a budget of $19.5 million per year, reports Time—will now boost pest control across the country. The hope is that technological advances will allow for at least one pest to be eradicated by 2025, reports Radio NZ. Critics fear the entire project could cost $6.2 billion, per the New Zealand Herald.
► This Is the Face of the ‘World’s Most Desirable Man’
The “World’s Most Desirable Man” is, for the first time, Asian. Rohit Khandelwal, a 26-year-old from Hyderabad, India, was last Tuesday crowned Mr. World, besting 45 other contestants in the process. The Wall Street Journal reports that three years ago he left a job providing technical support for Dell to head to Mumbai, where he was pursuing his MBA and trying his hand at acting. “I was living in a single room with five other people who wanted to make it,“ he tells the Deccan Chronicle. His path toward Mr. World began when he saw an ad for the Mr. India competition—and initially shrugged it off. “Then I read the description: The person should have a unique charm and should be good-natured. That is when I felt that I could do it.“ And he did, winning the title in 2015.
Speaking of that good nature, the Journal reports Khandelwal enjoys visiting with his grandmother and volunteering. Other desirable hobbies include cooking and table tennis, reports the India Times. A press release explains the 46 would-be Mr. Worlds were chosen from thousands of applicants and subjected to 12 days of “fierce competition” from which Khandelwal emerged victorious and was handed the $50,000 prize. The Times of India reports he’ll donate some and “invest” the rest in himself. As for his desirable physique (plenty of Instagram evidence here), he tells the Hans India that he makes sure to sleep a minimum of 8 hours a night and follows a particular diet: “carbs and high fiber until 6pm and then it’s salads, sprouts, eggs, brown bread.“ Fernando Alvarez, 21, of Puerto Rico, was the runner-up, with Aldo Esparza Ramírez, 26, of Mexico taking third.
► Hostage Slain in Church; 2 Attackers Dead in France
More misery in France: Two attackers seized hostages Tuesday in a church near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing one hostage by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police, reports the AP. Another person inside the church was critcally injured. Reuters and the BBC reports that the slain hostage was a priest. Authorities have not confirmed that, but the Vatican has condemned the “barbaric murder.“ The identities of the attackers and their motive are unclear, though anti-terrorism investigators are now handling the case. “At one point, the two assailants came out of the church and that’s when they were killed by the BRI elite force,“ Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told France Info radio, referring to France’s specialized police group.
“The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded,“ tweeted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “We will stand together.“ French President Francois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve were heading to the northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where the hostage-taking took place. France is currently on high alert after an attack in Nice on Bastille Day—July 14—that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 147 victims.
► Kidnappers Demand $36.5M for Rich Guy’s Mother-in-Law
Criminals hoping for a share of Bernie Ecclestone’s fortune have reportedly kidnapped the racing billionaire’s mother-in-law in Brazil. Local media say the criminals, in touch with the 85-year-old Formula One head, are demanding $36.5 million—the highest ransom ever in a Brazilian kidnapping, per the Telegraph. The BBC reports 67-year-old Aparecida Schunck was seized near her Sao Paulo home on Friday. Police and Ecclestone have yet to comment.
Schunck is the mother of Ecclestone’s 38-year-old wife, Fabiana Flosi, whom Ecclestone married in 2012. That same year, a man was jailed for threatening to abduct one of Eccelstone’s daughters if he wasn’t paid $262,500, reports ESPN; Ecclestone, one of the UK’s richest men, is worth an estimated $3.1 billion. Similar demands were once made daily in Brazil—there were 321 kidnappings in Sao Paolo alone in 2002—but are now less common due to a police anti-kidnap division, reports Reuters.
► ISIS Claims Attack That Killed Elderly Priest in French Church
More misery in France: Two attackers took hostages inside a French church during morning Mass on Tuesday near the city of Rouen, killing an 86-year-old Catholic priest by slitting his throat before being shot and killed by police, reports AP. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. Another person inside the church in Normandy was seriously injured and is hovering between life and death, said Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet. Police managed to rescue the only three other people inside the church in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, he told reporters. It was the first known attack inside a French church in recent times. A church was targeted last year, but the attack never was carried out.
French President Francois Hollande, arriving on the scene, called it a “vile terrorist attack” and said it’s one more sign that France is at war with the Islamic State, which has claimed a string of attacks on France. “We must lead this war with all our means,“ he said, adding that he was calling a meeting on Wednesday of representatives of all religions. France is currently on high alert after an attack in Nice on Bastille Day—July 14—that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 147 victims. A statement published by the ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said the attack was carried out by “two soldiers of the Islamic State” who acted in response to calls to target nations in the US-led coalition fighting in Iraq and Syria.