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Following veterans’ unexplained deaths, Manchin and Capito introduce bill aimed at VA hospital transparency

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. senators representing West Virginia have introduced a bill meant to provide greater transparency for patient safety at VA hospitals.

The bill was prompted by about 10 suspicious deaths at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

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Joe Manchin

“Victims’ families have waited long enough and deserve answers. I can’t imagine having a loved one murdered at a VA Medical Center and after a year and a half, still not knowing how it happened,” stated Manchin, D-W.Va.

Six of the veterans have been publicly identified. They include Russ Posey, William Alfred Holloway, Felix Kirk McDermott, George Nelson Shaw, Archie Edgell and John Hallman.

The victims were ill when they went to the hospital, according to their families, but not expected to die. Lawyers for the families say each victim was given fatal doses of insulin, even though none were diabetic.

The deaths are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Inspector General for the VA. Those involved with the case have suggested a person of interest no longer works at the VA but has not yet been arrested.

The Washington Post has reported that the person of interest initially was transferred to a desk job, and then was fired after a few months. She was accused of falsely claiming on her resume that she was certified as a nursing assistant.

The bill being introduced by Manchin and Capito would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to submit detailed reports on patient safety and quality of care at VA Medical Centers.

Additionally, the bill  would require the VA, once the criminal investigations are completed, to submit a detailed report and timeline of events surrounding the deaths at the Clarksburg VA.

“This legislation will help our Veterans and their families gain insight into the policies and procedures that could have led to these homicides,” Manchin stated.

“Ultimately our goal is to help restore public confidence in the VA across West Virginia and the nation.”

Shelley Moore Capito

Capito, R-W.Va., agreed.

“Our veterans should always feel safe and cared for at our VA hospitals. No questions asked,” Capito stated.

Capito said she has remained in touch with federal VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell, Clarksburg VA Director Glenn Snider and VA Inspector General Michael Missa.

“We need to discuss how these tragedies happened and how to prevent similar occurrences in West Virginia and VA hospitals nationwide,” Capito stated. “This legislation will help us find answers to these questions and help make sure that tragedies like this never happen again.”

Tony O’Dell

Tony O’Dell, a Charleston lawyer who represents several of the families of veterans who died under suspicious circumstances, said the bill is a good start.

“However, the victims’ families should not have to wait for this legislation to make its way through both houses of Congress and then be implemented down the road by the VA to get answers,” O’Dell stated in reaction to a question posed by MetroNews.

O’Dell said the VA and the Inspector General already know veterans died as a result of medically-unexplained severe hypoglycemia.

But, O’Dell stated, “We will never truly know how many veterans died as result of this VA medical center’s malfeasance and total lack of caring.

“The OIG should issue its report on the hospital system failures now and the VA should be reaching out to the victims’ families to admit what it did wrong and try to right its wrongs as best it can.”

The Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center most recently made a statement about the deaths and investigations in early November.

Wesley Walls, a spokesman for the hospital, said the firing of the individual at the center of the allegations offers a small measure of accountability.

But more responsibility falls to the VA’s independent inspector general, Walls stated.

“This was an isolated incident involving a single, now-fired person, and the notion that policies and protocols can somehow stop those intent on committing crimes strains credulity,” Walls stated.

“To protect against criminal activity and deliver justice, VA relies on organizations such as the independent inspector general, which has known about this issue since June 27, 2018, when Clarksburg VAMC officials reported it to them.”

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High school basketball ‘4-Class’ classifications set

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — New classifications are set for the launch of the high school basketball ‘4-Class’ system. The new setup will be utilized for a two-year trial basis, starting with the 2020-2021 academic year. Regional and sectional alignments will be released in January.

Class AAAA:

  1. Morgantown
  2. Musselman
  3. Cabell Midland
  4. Parkersburg
  5. Jefferson
  6. Huntington
  7. Martinsburg
  8. Wheeling Park
  9. Parkersburg South
  10. Spring Mills
  11. Washington
  12. Hedgesville
  13. University
  14. Hurrricane
  15. Woodrow Wilson
  16. George Washington
  17. Capital
  18. Riverside
  19. Preston
  20. St. Albans
  21. John Marshall
  22. Oak Hill
  23. South Charleston
  24. Buckhannon-Upshur
  25. Spring Valley
  26. Greenbrier East
  27. Bridgeport
  28. Princeton
  29. Brooke

Class AAA:

  1. Winfield
  2. Fairmont Senior
  3. Ripley
  4. Nitro
  5. Hampshire
  6. Lincoln County
  7. Shady Spring
  8. Herbert Hoover
  9. Robert C. Byrd
  10. East Fairmont
  11. North Marion
  12. Grafton
  13. Elkins
  14. Berkeley Springs
  15. Weir
  16. Point Pleasant
  17. Keyser
  18. Lewis County
  19. Sissonville
  20. Scott
  21. PikeView
  22. Wayne
  23. Lincoln
  24. Logan
  25. Nicholas County
  26. Oak Glen
  27. Independence
  28. Philip Barbour
  29. Liberty (Harrison)

Class AA:

  1. Wheeling Central Catholic
  2. Charleston Catholic
  3. Chapmanville
  4. Frankfort
  5. Roane County
  6. Liberty (Raleigh)
  7. Williamstown
  8. Poca
  9. Bluefield
  10. Westside
  11. Mingo Central
  12. Moorefield
  13. Braxton County
  14. Notre Dame
  15. Magnolia
  16. Wyoming East
  17. Buffalo
  18. South Harrison
  19. Ravenswood
  20. Petersburg
  21. Clay County
  22. St. Marys
  23. Ritchie County
  24. Midland Trail
  25. Wirt County
  26. Summers County
  27. Trinity
  28. Huntington St. Joseph’s
  29. Parkersburg Catholic

Class A:

  1. Sherman
  2. Greater Beckley Christian
  3. Doddridge County
  4. James Monroe
  5. Madonna
  6. Tyler Consolidated
  7. Pendleton County
  8. Tolsia
  9. Clay-Battelle
  10. Greenbrier West
  11. Man
  12. Wood County Christian
  13. WV School for the Deaf
  14. Mount View
  15. WV School for the Blind
  16. Richwood
  17. Tucker County
  18. Wahama
  19. River View
  20. Cameron
  21. Gilmer County
  22. East Hardy
  23. Tug Valley
  24. Calhoun County
  25. Montcalm
  26. Tygarts Valley
  27. Hannan
  28. Webster County
  29. Paden City
  30. Meadow Bridge
  31. Valley Wetzel
  32. Van
  33. Pocahontas County
  34. Hundred
  35. Paw Paw
  36. Union
  37. Harman
  38. Pickens

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CareSource MetroNews Top Plays of the Super Six

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Here are the CareSource MetroNews Top Plays from the three state championship games at the Super Six.

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Stephen Smith goes big on economic overhaul

As I have written here before, Stephen Smith is running an impressive campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor of West Virginia.  He is smart, energetic and a tireless campaigner.

His “small ball” fundraising is working.  Smith’s campaign has reported raising nearly one-half million dollars so far, much of it through donations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.  He has held dozens of town hall meetings and his team has organized volunteers throughout the state.

Smith’s theme of “West Virginia Can’t Wait” appeals to West Virginians who feel as though the state is caught in a “business as usual” political cycle that leaves too many people at the margins, while favoring elites.

That populist message is like those of Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, who has endorsed Smith, and Bernie Sanders.  Remember that Sanders won the 2016 Democratic Primary in West Virginia with 124,700 votes, compared with 86,914 for eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

Now that Smith is starting to release his specific platform positions, it is also evident that Smith’s proposals are in line with the far left of the Democratic Party.

You can read the proposals here and decide for yourself, but here are a few points that stand out to me:

Smith wants to raise the corporate net income tax from the current 6.5 percent to 9 percent. That’s an increase of 42 percent. His plan also includes reinstating the Business Franchise tax of .7 percent on companies with assets of more than $20 million.  The plan estimates that’s a business tax increase of $168 million.

Smith’s plan also includes creation of a Public Bank of West Virginia to provide “venture capital, forgivable loans, living stipends for arts and entrepreneurs, seed capital.”

Combine that idea with a long list of tax credits that Smith wants to create, and you have state government in the position of picking economic winners and losers on an even wider scale than it does now.

Smith is also proposing making West Virginia a strong union state. His “Workers Bill of Rights” includes instituting collective bargaining for public employees, preferences for union companies in state contracts, return of prevailing wage, elimination of the Right to Work law and passage of “the strongest laws in the country related to protecting the right to organize and strike.”

His plan includes another significant nod to unions.  The state would spend $10 million of taxpayer money to create “Workers Centers” where workers can get assistance organizing a union in their workplace and filing grievances against their employer.

Smith believes out-of-state corporations have taken advantage of the state.  He’s even proposing a 50-member Corporate Crime division in the State Police to “investigate and bring charges against corporate criminals,” a unit that he claims will “generate significant new revenue.”

He says his goal is to re-energize small business in West Virginia, and I have no doubt about his intent.  His pro-union, anti-corporation message will play well with his core supporters who believe West Virginia’s economy has never treated the state’s residents fairly.

However, his proposals are a much tougher sell for West Virginians who doubt the wisdom of government exerting even more control over the economy.

 

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Class A All-State Football Team

Class A all-state football team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association

First-Team Offense

OL – Cole James, Doddridge County, Sr.

OL – Liam Fultineer, Mount View, Sr.

OL – Cy Persinger, Midland Trail, Jr.

OL – Hunter Bowling, Sherman, Jr.

OL – Leewood Molessa, Williamstown, Jr.

WR – Griffin Devericks, Doddridge County, Sr.

WR – Caleb May, Tug Valley, Jr.

QB – Ethan Varney, Tug Valley, Sr.

RB – Hunter America, Doddridge County, Sr. (captain)

RB – Noah Brown, Greenbrier West, Jr.

RB – Ty Moore, Williamstown, Sr.

K – Atikilt Tamiru, Moorefield, Jr.

Utility – Mark Rucker, Tyler Consolidated, Sr.

Utility – Jeb Boice, Parkersburg Catholic, Sr.

Utility – Zach McClung, Greenbrier West, Jr.

First-Team Defense

DL – Hunter McMiken, Van, Sr.

DL – Josh Alt, Pendleton County, Jr.

DL – Drew Clendenin, Buffalo, So.

DL – Jalen Brunney, Parkersburg Catholic, Sr.

LB – Adam Murray, Wheeling Central, Sr. (captain)

LB – Eric Brown, Williamstown, Sr.

LB – Austin Kelley, Doddridge County, Sr.

LB – Garrett Owens, Ritchie County, Sr.

LB – Austin Alt, East Hardy, Sr.

DB – Hunter Jenkins, Doddridge County, Jr.

DB – Jordan Waterhouse, Wheeling Central, Jr.

DB – Nathan Murray, Wirt County, Jr.

P – Jacob Anthony, Ravenswood, Sr.

Utility – Jalen Creighton, Wheeling Central, Sr.

Utility – Landon McFadden, South Harrison, Sr.

Second-Team Offense

OL – Michael Horan, Wheeling Central, Sr.

OL – Trey Waller, South Harrison, Sr.

OL – Park Michels, Buffalo, Jr.

OL – Cole McClung, Greenbrier West, Jr.

OL – Zack Graham, Ravenswood, Sr.

WR – Gus Morrison, Ritchie County, So.

WR – Brennan Secrist, Madonna, Sr.

QB – Isaiah Gardiner, Pendleton County, Jr.

RB – Tre Moss, Ritchie County, Jr.

RB – Matthew Jenkins, Moorefield, Jr.

K – DJ Devinney, Doddridge County, Jr.

Utility – Curtis McGhee, Wheeling Central, Sr. (captain)

Utility – Brennan Boron, St. Marys, Jr.

Utility – Ethan Cross, Paden City, Sr.

Utility – Noah Neely, Cameron, Sr.

Second-Team Defense

DL – Mike Hamrick, Magnolia, Sr.

DL – Cameron Lovejoy, Buffalo, Sr.

DL – Stone Sartin, Tolsia, Sr.

DL – Connor Cunningham, Doddridge County, Jr.

LB – Vinnie High, Wheeling Central, Jr.,

LB – Hunter Claypool, Meadow Bridge, Jr.

LB – Trent Meador, Summers County, Sr.

LB — Brady Ankrom, Williamstown, Jr.

DB – Kaiden Pack, Greenbrier West, Jr.

DB – Andrew Tharp, East Hardy, Jr. (captain)

DB – Kole Sutton, Williamstown, Sr.

P – Gage Huffman, Tyler Consolidated, Sr.

Utility – Reece Nutter, Webster County, Sr.

Utility – Caden Boggs, Tygarts Valley, Jr.

Utility – John Wilson, Tolsia, Jr.

Special Honorable Mention

Josh Bright, Tygarts Valley; Jessop Broughton, Cameron; Tanner Copley, Tolsia; Jaycob Creel, Ravenswood; Vincent Cyrus, Moorefield; Mason Deem, Williamstown;  Richard Dornon, St. Marys; Dalton Dunkle, Pendleton County; Dylan Hardy, Summers County; Sean Hays, Clay-Battelle; Devin Farley, Doddridge County; Daniel Gorby, Clay-Battelle; Dylan Knight, Doddridge County; Caleb Jantuah, Richwood; Jason LaAsmar, South Harrison; Case Landis, Tyler Consolidated; Payton Marling, Wheeling Central; Michael McGee, Richwood; Brayden Modesitt, Williamstown; Garrett Parsons, Wirt County; Cody Poe, Hundred; Kayden Procacina, Ritchie County; Lucky Pulice, Madonna; Jacob Rine, Wheeling Central; Dillon Shinaberry, Pocahontas County; Wade Smitley, Parkersburg Catholic; David Stewart, Van; Gavin Streets, Valley; Dawson Tharp, Webster County; Clayton Thomas, Paden City; Daniel White, Tygarts Valley

Honorable Mention

Jason Anderson, Paden City; Anthony Bailey, Mount View; Adam Baker, East Hardy; Keaton Baldwin, Pocahontas County; Calvin Blunt Jr., Trinity; Keegan Bolyard, Tygarts Valley; Jacob Bronner, Madonna; Noah Bumgardner, Doddridge County; Reese Burnside, Doddridge County; Deacon Carmichael, Cameron; Michael Chandler, Doddridge County; Devon Eldridge, Trinity; Ean Hamrick, Gilmer County; Chase Hood, Ravenswood; Trevor Hunt, Wahama; Jared Jones, Doddridge County; Evan Kyle, Pendleton County; TJ Jackson, Tolsia; Silas McKeever, Magnolia; Logan Norris, Hundred; Dylan Patterson, St. Marys;  Logan Powell, Wirt County; Jaren Robinson, South Harrison; Ty Roles, Meadow Bridge; CJ Rose, Wheeling Central; Garrett Scott, Cameron; Thomas Sessi, Madonna; JD Shaffer, Ritchie County; Mason Smith, Wheeling Central; Grayson Spaulding, Tug Valley; Dylan Starkey, Hannan; Hunter Starkey, Greenbrier West; Wayne Stephenson, Ravenswood; Joel Stophel, Parkersburg Catholic; Willie Walden, Tygarts Valley; Cyle West, St. Marys

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Dial to become Huntington city manager

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial will become Huntington’s next city manager, Mayor Steve Williams announced Monday.

Dial, who has been with the police department for 28 years, will assume his new role on Dec. 16. He succeeds Cathy Burns, who became executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority in July.

Dial told MetroNews he and Williams spoke about the opportunity after it opened.

“It’s something I was interested in. It gives me a new way to serve the citizens of Huntington,” he said.

Dial became police chief in May 2018. His resume includes being the administrative bureau commander for the police department, in which he handled budgeting, grants and training.

In his new role, he will oversee the city’s finances and personnel department.

“It will be very different for me to wake up and not throw on the uniform and go serve in that capacity, but I do look forward to the challenge,” he said.

Williams said Dial’s understanding of the city’s finances and law enforcement knowledge makes him a great person for the role.

“We have created a strong balance sheet in our finances. We have an aggressive economic development strategy that is being pursued through the Huntington Municipal Development Authority. We also must assure that our city is known as a safe city in which to live and do business. Hank Dial helps us complete this triangle of service — fiscal soundness, aggressive economic and employment development, and strong public safety. I appreciate the willingness of Chief Dial to agree to take on this role,” Williams added.

Police Cpt. Ray Cornwell will serve as interim police chief after Dial takes his new position; Dial called Cornwell “an outstanding police commander.”

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart congratulated Dial and Cornwell on their new roles.

“I look forward to our continued partnership under Chief Cornwell’s leadership,” he said. “Together, we’ll continue our efforts to make Huntington the safest city in America.”

Dial’s annual salary will be $94,884.

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West Virginia, 17 other states challenging US Circuit Court’s ruling on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is leading a coalition of states in challenging a ruling that halted the development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Eighteen states filed a brief Monday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a December 2018 decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The court’s decision last year halted the development of the 605-mile natural gas pipeline that would go from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The three-judge panel ruled the U.S. Forest Service acted irresponsibly when it granted the related permit given “serious environmental concerns” with the pipeline’s development.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a press release the effects of the ruling include lost jobs and revenue. His office added if the decision is upheld, 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail would be “a near-impenetrable barrier to energy development.”

“We appreciate the Supreme Court’s review and believe a decision to overturn the prior ruling will end unnecessary delays that have halted pipeline construction, kept heating fuel prices high, negatively impacted struggling working class families and been detrimental to the services they receive,” Morrisey said.

Multiple environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Cowpasture River Preservation and the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, filed a brief in August supporting the circuit court ruling. Oral arguments are scheduled for Feb. 24, 2020.

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CAMC Women and Children’s receives NICU equipment after nomination in program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital got new crucial equipment on Monday.

Project 4, an initiative sponsored by Project Sweet Peas, a national non-profit that supports NICUs and NICU families, and 4moms, the makers of the mamaRoo infant seat, announced CAMC as one of the 10 hospital recipients of its “Nominate a NICU” program.

As part of the nomination, the hospital received seven mamaRoo infant seats for its NICU.

“The mamaROO is in 375 hospitals across the country and we have heard from numerous doctors and nurses just how transformational it really is to have in the NICU. Specifically, with NAS babies that need constant motion, the mamaROO helps to calm and soothe them,” Amie Stanton, Director of Brand Engagement, 4moms told MetroNews.

Stanton said CAMC was one of 10 hospitals selected of around 100 nominations nationwide. Nominations came in from NICU patients or people who knew patients.

MamaROO is an infant seat that replicates the natural motions of parents. The item that normally has costs starting at $220 bounces up and down and sways from side to side to soothe and comfort a baby.

“In the NICU, they are very helpful when the families aren’t here or the nurses are busy with a full NICU. They can set the babies down in the mamaROO and that motion comforts and soothes them,” Stanton said.

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West Virginia cracks women’s Top 25 after win over Mississippi State

West Virginia made its way into the Associated Press women’s basketball Top 25 following Sunday’s upset win at then-No. 10 Mississippi State.

The Mountaineers (6-1) are ranked 22nd in this week’s poll, making them the only previously unranked team to jump into the Top 25 this week.

West Virginia and No. 6 Baylor are currently the only two ranked teams in the Big 12.

Sunday’s 71-65 win at Mississippi State was the first non-conference Top-10 win in program history. The Bulldogs have reached the Elite Eight in each of the past three seasons.

The Mountaineers are idle until next Sunday, when they face Norfolk State at the Charleston Civic Center.

Record Pts
1. Stanford (27) 8-0 747 1
2. UConn (1) 8-0 686 4
3. Oregon (1) 7-1 679 3
4. Oregon St. (1) 8-0 653 5
5. South Carolina 9-1 634 6
6. Baylor 8-1 598 7
7. Louisville 9-1 597 2
8. Florida St. 9-0 550 8
9. NC State 9-0 490 13
10. UCLA 8-0 458 11
11. Texas A&M 7-1 438 12
12. Indiana 8-1 412 14
13. Maryland 8-2 395 9
14. Kentucky 9-0 386 15
15. Mississippi St. 8-2 349 10
16. DePaul 7-1 302 16
17. Gonzaga 8-1 255 18
18. Arizona 9-0 235 20
19. Michigan St. 6-2 150 19
20. Missouri St. 8-1 148 22
21. Arkansas 8-1 120 23
22. West Virginia 6-1 106
23. Tennessee 7-1 96 17
24. Michigan 8-1 79 24
25. Miami 5-3 56 21

Others receiving votes: South Dakota 46, Florida Gulf Coast 39, Minnesota 19, North Carolina 10, Ohio St. 6, Rutgers 5, Colorado 3, Arizona St. 1, Texas 1, TCU 1.

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Carmichael says controversial photo a “teachable moment”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline” everyone involved in the Nazi salute photo from the state Division of Corrections should be dismissed from their positions.

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Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson

“In my opinion, yes. It’s an executive branch decision but it’s a moment to reemphasize that we care about human suffering and we will not forget the suffering that occurred in this moment,” Carmichael said.

State Secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety Jeff Sandy said last Friday the investigation into the class photo, taken the week before Thanksgiving, was nearly complete with further information likely to be released by Christmas.

“People are so offended by this and they should be,” Carmichael said Monday. “When we mock those type of events in the history of the world then we’re forgetting the real tragedy occurring around those events. We cannot turn a blind eye when someone mocks that kind of behavior and things that happened.”

.@SenCarmichaelWV talks with @HoppyKercheval about his legislative priorities and the Nazi salute photo from WVDCR. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/7reNjkI3RZ

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 9, 2019

Carmichael said the governor’s office should do a thorough investigation to make sure no one in the photo was forced to make the salute but pending any new information everyone should be fired.

Training class photo

Sandy said two instructors and one student have already been fired while more than 30 others have been suspended and face dismissal. Sandy said dozens of investigators conducted 50 interviews over a matter of days.

Carmichael said there’s a side of him that wants to believe that those who took part in the photo did not understand the suffering and the human carnage that the sign represents. He said it’s an opportunity to dismiss all forms of discrimination.

“We should never condone and see this human suffering and characterize it as funny or a joke. This is a good moment to say to everyone, ‘No. None of this,'” Carmichael said.

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