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West Virginia looking to solve road woes against banged-up Texas

After failing to earn a road win against a team it beat by 32 points at home, West Virginia will attempt to avoid the same fate against the team it throttled by 38 at WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) limp into Texas’ Erwin Center with four losses in their past five games, including Saturday’s 67-60 overtime defeat at TCU. West Virginia hasn’t won on the road since beating Oklahoma State on Jan. 6.

The Longhorns (16-11, 6-8) are in must-win mode as they attempt to scrape together a record the NCAA tournament committee will take into consideration. Texas has been without starting power forward Jericho Sims and starting wing Jase Febres for the past three games, and both are still listed as being out indefinitely with lower-back injuries.

Even with both players in the lineup, the Horns were absolutely no match for the Mountaineers in Morgantown on Jan. 20.

West Virginia humiliated Texas 97-59, marking the biggest blowout loss for the Longhorns in a conference game since 1983. Febres was easily Texas’ best player on the floor in that game, scoring a game-high 18 points.

Unfortunately for West Virginia, what happens in Morgantown has been staying in Morgantown. On Saturday, the Mountaineers looked nothing like the team that beat TCU 81-49 in West Virginia.

The most troubling element of the TCU loss was how it happened. The Horned Frogs have the ability to blitz opponents from outside, but actually beat West Virginia by exploiting what is supposed to be its defensive strength.

TCU used the pick-and-roll to get plenty of easy shots and finished the game shooting 50 percent (18 of 36) from inside the arc. In their first meeting, the Frogs were 7 of 21 (33 percent) shooting twos.

Texas was only 31 percent from two-point range in its prior meeting with the Mountaineers. If the Longhorns are able to flip the script near the rim as well as the Horned Frogs did, then West Virginia is in danger of another embarrassing road result.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins sounded alarmed after losing to TCU, knowing his team is squandering a chance to earn a solid seed in the NCAA tournament. A loss to Texas would accelerate the downward trend into something closer to a nosedive.

“We’ve lost to the bottom part of the league. You can’t do that. You just can’t do that,” Huggins said. “Any time you turn on the TV you’ll hear about how we dropped in the NET. I really thought this could be a special year that all West Virginians could rally around. Maybe it still can be.”

No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers (19-8, 7-7) at Texas Longhorns (16-11, 6-8)

TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.

Last meeting: West Virginia beat Texas, 97-59, on Jan. 20 at WVU Coliseum

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WV natural gas production and jobs at stake today in Supreme Court case

The U.S. Supreme Court today takes up a case that has broad implications for West Virginia’s energy economy, as well as the future of natural gas production, shipping and use throughout the country.

The case is U.S. Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and it centers on which federal agency has permitting jurisdiction over land that the Appalachian Trail traverses.

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy are building the $8 billion, 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will ship natural gas from north central West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina for energy production.  Environmentalists want to stop this and other pipelines as part of their fight against carbon-based fuels.

The U.S. Forest Service approved construction of the pipeline through the George Washington National Forest.  The pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail, tunneling 600 feet under the pathway near Wintergreen, Virginia.

Pipeline opponents argue the trail constitutes land in the National Park System and therefore the Forest Service has no jurisdiction.  The Forest Service contends it has authority over the land because the trail is a mere right of way through the national forest.

The Cowpasture River Preservation Association has already prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which vacated the permit issued in 2018, halting pipeline construction.  The Forest Service will ask the high court today to overturn the 4th Circuit’s decision.

Noah Sachs, professor and director of the Merhige Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Richmond School of Law, wrote in SCOTUSblog, “many analysts project that if the petitioners (Forest Service) lose, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be shelved because of the expense of rerouting the entire pipeline to cross the trail at another location (such as where the trial crosses privately owned land).”

If the environmentalists prevail, it will have a dramatic impact on the country’s increasing use of natural gas as a cheap, reliable energy source.  Sachs wrote that about half of the Appalachian Trial passes through national forests so the Trail would become a virtual “wall” that blocks pipelines.

(It’s worth noting that there are already 55 pipelines that cross the Appalachian Trail at 34 locations along the 2,100-mile route.)

But the implications are even broader than that.  There are about 11,000 miles of national trails that cross federal land.  Imagine the impact on pipeline construction in this country if no pipeline could tunnel under any of those trails.

West Virginia  is leading an 18-state coalition that has joined in the fight on behalf of the Forest Service. Last Friday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey held a press conference in support of the pipeline construction, and he was joined by workers who have been laid off because of the court challenge.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, whose construction has also been halted by this case, are integral to the lives of those workers, natural gas production in this state and the shipment of energy across the country.

The opponents know well the pipelines will have no impact on the Appalachian Trail, but they are pursuing an obscure legal maneuver as part of an anti-carbon agenda.  Hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court will recognize their meritless argument as well as the negative impact on the country’s energy production and independence should they prevail.





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First responders PTSD bill set for Senate response

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the bills the state Senate will take up from the House following crossover day will be one that provides first responders in West Virginia an opportunity to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

HB 2321 passed through the House of Delegates on Friday.

Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, who has tried to pass similar bills for three years, spoke on the House floor before passage in a powerful speech on how first responders and families suffer from coping with stress.

Chad Lovejoy

“We cope in ways that maybe aren’t the most healthy. Maybe we self medicate, maybe its drugs, alcohol, adultery, violence in the house. Our men and women suffer and their families suffer,” he said.

The bill text states that PTSD must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist from an event that occurred during employment as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic.

Lovejoy spoke on the House floor about a case of PTSD that ended tragically with a Huntington firefighter. The House Judiciary Committee heard the story from the fire fighter’s father Bobby Coleman about his son Chris.

According to his father, Chris struggled with demons from work and decided to take time off using personal and vacation days to cope with stress. Lovejoy said Chris used up all his days and had a decision to make between continuing to stay off work and make no money or get back to work to feed his family.

“He went back to work,” Lovejoy said. “He went to work too soon. Two weeks later, the hero that wore this helmet hung himself in his garage.”

The committee passed a similar bill last year but it didn’t make it through the process. Lovejoy said similar bills have made it through seven committees during his time.

He went on to admit there are concerns about the costs of the bill but pledged to work on it because the bill will save lives.

“My friend Nick had no choice. When duty called him to respond to that apartment fire ten years ago, he did what duty required him to do and he and his family live with it today,” he said on the floor.

“My friend Daniel back home had no choice when he was called to go to those accident scenes and drug houses. He simply did what duty required and he and his family live with it today.”

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Photo gallery: Logan defeats Sissonville on Senior Night

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photos from Logan’s 71-58 win over Sissonville on senior night. The Wildcats capped the regular season with a 15-7 record.

(Photos courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)


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Charleston officials including PEIA switch in upcoming budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the Kanawha County Commission continues to evaluate whether to switch to Public Employees Insurance Agency health care coverage, Charleston officials are ready to switch to the insurance provider.

The change will be included in Mayor Amy Goodwin’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which is set to be announced at Charleston City Council’s March 2 meeting.

The Kanawha County Commission is discussing a switch to PEIA, citing a $700,000 annual increase in expenses. The commission will decide on being part of PEIA before the next fiscal year begins in July.

According to city manager Jonathan Storage, health insurance costs are expected to increase by $2.5 million next year.

“That is by far the single largest expense growth item we have in our anticipated budget coming up if it were to stay status quo with no change,” he said.

The Goodwin administration had to address a $3 million budget deficit in its first budget last year.

“This would almost consume that entire deficit alone,” Storage mentioned.

Charleston is self-insured when it comes to health care. Storage noted employees pay low premiums and receive “very generous benefits,” including a $300 annual deductible.

“The last health insurance premium increase for city employees and beneficiaries — including retirees — was 2011. That is an unheard of, unprecedented nine-year stagnation in premium rates,” Storage said. “They just weren’t adjusted for increased health care costs.”

Storage could not give data on how much the city would save if a switch to PEIA happened, but said a change in insurance could benefit employees in multiple ways; the last salary increase happened in 2015.

“It’s not a cure-all, but it’s the best way that we can increase employee salaries, reduce costs and increase savings all in one fell swoop,” he said.

Charleston City Council approved the first Goodwin budget last March with only one dissenting vote, Councilmember Shannon Snodgrass.

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DNR proposes adding a day to buck season–and a week of spring gobbler hunting

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The most prominent proposals by the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for the upcoming West Virginia hunting seasons are extended hunting time and more inclusive regulations for youth hunters.

Those proposals were made to the quarterly meeting of the Natural Resources Commission on Sunday. The addition of Sunday hunting in West Virginia has created the potential for changes which at one time would have been unheard of in West Virginia.

One proposal would extend the buck season one more day to include the second Sunday after Thanksgiving. West Virginia’s season historically has opened the Monday before Thanksgiving and run for two weeks. Previously the Sunday in the middle of the season was allowed when the Sunday hunting restriction was removed, now there’s a plan to extend the season one more day.

“We don’t think biologically it will hurt the age structure of the deer population, it just gives hunters one more day to be in the woods while they’re off work,” said Division of Natural Resources Assistant Chief for Game Management Gary Foster.

A companion proposal would extend the concurrent bear hunting season in counties where it applies to the second Sunday as well. Sunday would be the final day for the four different fall turkey seasons and the spring gobbler seasons as well under proposed regulation changes as well.

“Right now we have some that go out on Sunday and some that go out on a Saturday. We’re just trying to simplify things so the majority of these can go out on a Sunday now,” he said.

Extending the buck season one day is not nearly as radical a departure from the norm as what the agency proposed for the spring gobbler season.

““..the spring wild turkey season opens on the third Monday in April and runs for thirty-five consecutive days thereafter and is open statewide for the hunting of bearded turkeys only.””

The current spring gobbler season is a 27-day season. Several years ago among overwhelming requests by the public, the four week season was moved up a week. The proposal is to leave the opening week in place and a fifth week on the back end for the spring gobbler season. The reluctance to move the season earlier was how it would impact hens which have gone to nest.

“Looking at the harvest data, it seems like it’s not having any effect. Plus we have some hunters who prefer that last week and although the gobbling is not great at that time, you can still have some great hunting in that week that was lost when we moved it forward. Looking at the data and declines in big game hunter numbers, we don’t think it will have a negative impact from a biological standpoint on the wild turkey population,” Foster said.

Typically bag limits get a lot of attention each year when they are proposed. However, those are nearly identical to 2019 in regard to bear hunting and the antlerless deer season. . The agency proposes to increase the number of antlerless hunting permits to 400 in Pocahontas County. The bag limit for antlerless deer would increase to one in the western end of Mineral County and all of Lincoln County where the regulation last year was split.

The more restrictive proposals for 2020 are equally minimal in this year’s proposed regulations. The DNR proposes lowering the bag limit of antlerless deer to one in northern Kanawha County, Mason, and Wirt Counties. The rest of the antlerless deer restrictions would remain the same as 2019.

Bear season changes proposed by the agency include opening up Mercer, Richie, Wetzel, and Wirt Counties to coincide with the early antlerless deer season from October 22-25 with no permit required on public or private land. The season would not include hunting with bear hounds.

The other change to bear season will be in Preston County. The agency will close bear hunting with dogs on private land in the eastern end of Preston County between Reedsville and the Monongalia County Line. The area is roughly 58 square miles.

“Most of that is small parcels of private land and we’ve had several complaints from landowners in that area,” said Bear Project Leader Colin Carpenter.

A special youth bear season is proposed for the third Saturday and following Sunday in October. The season would be on private and public lands in counties open to a firearms deer hunting season. Dogs would not be permitted for the season and the hunters would be age 8 to less than 18 years of age. The season would include Class Q and Class XS license holders.

Also for youth hunting, the DNR also proposed to allow hunters age 14 and under along with Class Y license holders to use a crossbow during the crossbow deer season in Logan, McDowell, Mingo, and Wyoming Counties.The proposal drew questions from Commissioner Jeff Bowers and several members of the audience since it pertains to the entire hunting season and not just the youth hunting season.

“There’s some indication that younger hunters may not be able to pull back a bow, but they can use a crossbow at a younger age,” said Foster.

Bowers and some public speakers raised grave questions about the possibility of poaching and illegal activity if the regulation is put into place.

A similar proposal would allow for the use of crossbows with specific bolt tips in the youth spring gobbler season.

A final regulation change proposed in the 2020 package involves coyote hunting. As proposed it reads:

“The Division of Natural Resources proposes to allow year-round coyote hunting with an artificial light with the condition that between September 1 through December 31 night hunting with an artificial light for coyotes could only occur on private land, after receiving permission and prior to hunting, with the requirement that the hunter(s) must notify the DNR-Law Enforcement Section after they received permission.”

According to Foster, the proposal is a compromise to legislation touted by some members of the Legislature who want night hunting for coyotes allowed year round. The practice is presently allowed until the end of August, but during the four months of the majority of big game seasons is not allowed. Contact will law enforcement is sought to add a lawyer of protection against potential for spotlighting and poaching.

None of the regulations are set in stone. They are merely proposals out for public comment. Members of the public can ask questions and submit at the Sportsman’s Sectional meetings in March. Comments can also be communicated via mail or email to the agency. The Natural Resources Commission will vote on the proposals at it’s meeting May 3rd at Hawk’s Nest State Park.

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Pneumonia researchers cross 30-year mark at Marshall University

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Two researchers at Marshall University are marking a milestone with more than 30 years dedicated to studying pneumonia.

“It has gone very fast because it was, really, very enjoyable,” said Dr. Maurice Mufson who works with Ronald Stanek in the microbiology research lab at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Maurice Mufson and Ronald Stanek

Mufson’s career began with the National Institutes of Health in 1961 where he studied respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which causes infections in the lungs and respiratory tract.

That work extended to Huntington where he joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1976.

He later shifted his focus specifically to pneumonia.

Starting in 1989, he and Stanek researched community-acquired pneumonia, the most common type of pneumonia, including the more serious invasive pneumococcal pneumonia.

Invasive pneumococcal pneumonia occurs when the pneumococcus enters the blood.

“The best data started in 1981 and we have been carrying it through all the ways to 2020 still,” Dr. Mufson told MetroNews.

“To our knowledge, no other investigators looking at invasive pneumococcal disease in cities in the United States or around the world have as long a study as we have.”

Together, Mufson and Stanek have researched the effects of the pneumococcal vaccinations, PNEUMOVAX 23 and Prevar 13, on different populations in Appalachia, like children.

“It seemed pertinent since lots of people were getting such serious disease and the vaccines, it seemed, were going to change the landscape and they have,” Mufson said.

Routine immunizations for babies and kids have drastically reduced illness rates.

For adults, “Mostly those who get invasive pneumococcal pneumonia, for example, among the adults, have underlying comorbidities that increase their risk for the disease,” he said.

Over the research time, the disease has become resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics.

“There seems to be a never-ending evolution to pneumococcal disease,” Stanek said in a statement.

The two also determined that, on average, survivors of invasive pneumococcal pneumonia, the more serious illness, live ten fewer years than those who never had it.

Mufson retired from Marshall in 2002 as a professor emeritus but has continued to work as a researcher, lecturer and mentor.

His tentative plan is to retire fully within the next few years, though he admitted it would be difficult to step away from the research.

“The field is so interesting,” he said.

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Man arrested following altercation, death at Parkersburg apartment complex

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Parkersburg police have a man in custody following a suspicious death at an apartment complex on Saturday.

Michael Johns, 32, faces a robbery charge as the autopsy report of Christopher Valkos is pending.

According to police, Valkos, 34, messaged Johns about buying drugs. Johns went to the Greenbrier Garden Apartments where Valkos lived, and an altercation between the two happened.

Johns allegedly left the scene with Valkos’ money.

The men were both on parole after serving time in prison.

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Photo gallery: Herd open pod play with home triumph over Monarchs

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall (14-14) got back to the .500 mark overall and jumped over it in Conference USA play with Saturday’s 74-66 win over Old Dominion at the Cam Henderson Center. The Thundering Herd are now 8-7 in league action.

(Photos by Angie Shockley)

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Monongalia County official looks to boost Census participation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Ten years after finishing at the bottom in participation, one Monongalia County official wants West Virginians to do a better job with this year’s U.S. Census.

Americans will begin to receive Census forms in mid-March. The effort determines how much federal funding local and state communities receive as well as how many congressional representatives each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Monongalia County GIS coordinator Mike Paugh said the more people that take part in the Census, the better various programs will be.

“West Virginia finished next to last in the 2010 Census,” he mentioned.

Respondents will answer questions regarding the number of people in a household as well as the age of residents.

Paugh is especially focused on working at West Virginia University, which includes educating students about why the Census matters.

“You’re counted in the residence you live in for the majority of the year and they are here for nine months out of the year,” he said. “They need to be aware they are not counted in their mom and dad’s home or wherever they might be from. They’re counted here in the city of Morgantown, Monongalia County.”

People can submit their information by form, online or by telephone. July 31 is the final day for people to self-respond.

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