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With Biden taking office amid turbulent times, West Virginia’s senators ready to work

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Shortly after noon Wednesday, Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States.

When Biden finishes the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, he will be the leader of a country in which 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus and the insurrection at the nation’s legislative building remains fresh on Americans’ minds.

President Donald Trump will leave the White House ahead of the inauguration ceremony, which is happening a week after the House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting the violent demonstration.

Democrats control Congress’s two chambers, but the margins are slim; Democrats lost seats in the House following the November general election, and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will be responsible for breaking any ties in a split Senate.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., understands the power associated with being a member of the majority party; Republicans gained control of the Senate as Capito began her first Senate term in 2015. She also has experience being part of the minority; when she represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District, Democrats controlled the House between January 2007 and January 2011.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

West Virginia’s junior senator said the narrow Democratic majority and political tensions present opportunities for her to be a “check and balance” on the Biden administration and work with colleagues on the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic and what will happen after.

“I do think there is a feeling of wanting to get the economy rolling again post-COVID. Making sure the deployment of the vaccine — which is hitting some stumbling blocks — is the more immediate need,” she told MetroNews.

Capito — whom the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University have ranked as one of the most bipartisan federal lawmakers — stressed the importance of collaborating with colleagues when speaking before last year’s election, telling MetroNews last October the Republican majority could not pass all bills without some Democratic support.

During an interview Tuesday, she shared an eagerness to further her relationships with Democratic colleagues, including Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, who will chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. Capito will be its ranking member.

Capito has additionally joined the “908 Coalition,” the bipartisan Senate group credited with drafting the December coronavirus relief package.

“I want to get things done. I think this is a good mechanism to be a player and have a voice,” she said. “I think we’re going to be looking at things where we can be a centrist group that can get things accomplished rather than hiding in our respective partisan corners.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., helped found the coalition and recruited Capito. He explained to MetroNews that the Senate’s rule on cloture — meaning 60 senators have to agree to end debate regarding a bill — encourages cooperation.

“You have to communicate, you have to work together, and you have to build relationships and trust,” he said. “When you don’t have relationships and trust, you won’t get anything accomplished.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pressuring Democrats to keep the filibuster, which prevents lawmakers from passing bills with a simple majority.

Manchin said public officials need to focus on making the president and the nation successful, emphasizing his opposition to removing the filibuster. He added he faced Trump’s tenure as president the same way.

“Being a United States senator, we are in a position where we can help, and I wanted to make sure we did that,” Manchin said. “But he is determined to leave it in disarray, and he doesn’t want his successor, Joe Biden, to have any advantages or be in a better position and make it look better than he did. You know, it is what it is.”

Manchin is in a role unique from his colleagues; a moderate who voted 50.4% in line with Trump according to FiveThirtyEight, Manchin’s vote could determine if Democratic proposals make it out of the Senate — with Harris’ approval — or fail.

He downplayed his possible influence, instead stressing the importance of bipartisanship.

“Republicans trust me. They know I’m not trying to defeat them, and I’m not trying to find a gotcha moment,” he said. “I have good relationships and good trust on both sides, and that makes it easy for me to move back and forth freely. I’m the most centrist senator, the most centrist congressperson out of 535 (legislators). If it makes sense to me and I can explain it, I’ll vote for it.”

The Senate’s first tasks include approving Biden’s Cabinet picks. Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin appeared Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Manchin is a member. The senator said in a statement following the hearing he is confident in Austin’s ability to lead the Department of Defense.

Capito has spoken to some nominees individually. She said she has some concerns with Biden’s picks on environmental policy because of their work with the Obama administration.

“We have good data for what happens when you move forward with drastic policies without the consideration of people’s livelihoods and what’s going to happen to families that are going to be out of jobs,” she said, referencing the coal industry. “That’s going to be a role that I’m definitely going to play to say, ‘wait a minute, we can’t go down this road again. Let’s do this in a transitional fashion where everybody benefits.'”

Some of Biden’s choices for his team include people who will not need the Senate’s approval, such as former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, who will lead a new White House office on climate change.

“I am fully on board with the clean water and clean air initiatives that we have done, but we see that if you take these to the extremes, they can be very, very harmful in terms of the economy and small businesses,” Capito added.

Manchin and Capito said the coronavirus response should be Congress’ top priority during Biden’s first months. While West Virginia officials have lowered the minimum age to receive a coronavirus vaccine to 65 years old, they have noted issues in the federal government’s allocation of doses.

Capito mentioned the need for a national plan on administering the vaccine, including providing doses to children and school teachers so face-to-face instruction can resume in full.

“That, I think, is job number one as we move into the next several months,” she said.

Biden last week unveiled a $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan, which includes another coronavirus relief payment worth up to $1,400 a person; an increase to the unemployment assistance enhancement; grants for small businesses; and funding to administer 100 million vaccination shots within the new administration’s first 100 days.

The announcement follows last month’s passage of the $900 billion coronavirus relief measure. The plan included $600 payments to individuals, financial relief options for businesses, and funding for schools and health care providers.

Biden called the December action a “first step” to recovery, yet Capito said it is unclear if Biden’s full proposal is necessary as the impact of the $900 billion measure is not apparent a month since its passage.

“I think we need to target this relief, and it appears in this Biden plan that he’s thrown up a lot of the more favored issues without seeing what the effects are,” she added.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin)

Manchin and Capito both said if Congress were to approve a third round of individual relief checks, the plan should prioritize individuals and families most in need of financial assistance.

“We’re going to make sure the people who are really needing it are the ones that are targeted to get it,” Manchin said.

Both senators expressed hopes about an infrastructure plan following the pandemic. Manchin argued the country has already invested around $4 trillion in coronavirus response efforts, and a similar investment toward infrastructure projects over 10 years would generate economic stability.

“Infrastructure is basically the opportunity to have total employment. We can have people working everywhere in every state,” he said.

As the Trump campaign exhausted options to change the election results, Capito stated she wanted to find common ground with the incoming administration. Capito shared Tuesday she will continue working with colleagues and is hopeful to foster a relationship with the Biden White House.

That does not mean she will be afraid to challenge proposals she believes would negatively impact West Virginia.

“The president, the Senate and the House are in control of a different party than mine and what West Virginians have voted for,” she said. “The best way I can assist on that is to make sure that my eye is on what the common goal of improving West Virginians are.”

Biden spent 36 years representing Deleware in the Senate, which Manchin argued benefits Biden, who understands the legislative process and importance of compromise. He encouraged Biden to build relationships between the White House and legislators to benefit the federal government and nation.

“It’s not just the Democrats now because he’s a ‘D,'” Manchin said. “It’s the country now because he’s the president of everybody.”

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Biden’s Inaugural Speech Challenge

President-elect Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address later today, and it is an immense challenge. The country is divided, and polls show anywhere from one-half to three-fourths of Republicans who voted for Trump do not believe Biden won the election legitimately.

Regardless of what he says today, it will be difficult for Biden to convince voters of the truth that the election was not “stolen.” However, he can appeal to broader sensibilities, to the ethos of our republic that dates to its founding.

Through the years, presidents have used those kinds of aspirational appeals in inaugural addresses to try to rise above the divides that elections do not necessarily settle, and perhaps even exacerbate.

Thomas Jefferson won a bitter campaign against incumbent John Adams in the election of 1800.  Jefferson sought commonality when he said, “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

He said something you would rarely hear a politician saying today.  He admitted he would make mistakes and that his critics would be reluctant to credit him for successes.  “I shall often go wrong through defect in judgment,” he said.  “When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground.”

No President has assumed the office during a more divided time that Abraham Lincoln.  During his first inaugural address March 4, 1861, just weeks before the start of the Civil War, Lincoln held out hopes of avoiding conflict.

“Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection,” he said, and finally he appealed to “the better angels of our nature” to preserve the union.

By his second inauguration in 1865, the bloody Civil War was coming to an end. Rather than lashing out at his enemies—and there were many—he called for the nation to go forth “With malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Teddy Roosevelt, in his inaugural address of 1905, challenged citizens to understand that maintaining a democracy requires commitment by its citizens.  “We know that no people need such high traits of character as that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the freemen who compose it.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most often quoted line from his four inaugural addresses is, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Roosevelt delivered that in his first inaugural address in March 1933 when the country was languishing in a deep depression.

Eight years later, as the world was plunging into war, Roosevelt sought to rally the patriotic spirt of the country.  “In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the Spirit of America, and the faith of America.”

John F. Kennedy used his inaugural address in 1961 to challenge Americans to devote themselves to the greater good of the United States when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

The bold statement raised expectations for Americans.  The perpetuation of American ideals and the security of the country depended on sacrifice by its citizens.

Ronald Reagan, ever the optimist, sounded the trumpet for the virtues of the country in his second inaugural address in 1985. “It is the American sound,” he said. “It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair.  That’s our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still.”

Biden’s challenge today, like presidents before him, is to somehow move people to think about what it means to be an American.  If we can coalesce around those ideals, or at the very least put aside out tribalism to remember them, we can again strengthen “our bonds of affection.”

 

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Darius Stills begins next chapter of his football life in Florida

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three-and-a-half years after arriving at WVU and breaking into the defensive lineup as a true freshman, Darius Stills has left Morgantown to embark on the next chapter of his football journey. Like many NFL hopefuls, Stills has gone south to train for pre-draft workouts. The Fairmont Senior High School graduate is in his third week of intensive training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

He could have elected to begin his pre-draft preparations about a month earlier. But going against the trend of some top professional prospects, Stills opted to play in WVU’s bowl game. He helped the Mountaineers to a 24-21 win over Army in the Liberty Bowl.

“I couldn’t imagine having my teammates out there without me, especially going against a team like that or any other team,” Stills said. “I remember in my sophomore year, a couple of the guys opted out. We all kind of felt like we were lost. I didn’t want my teammates to feel that way about me. I am a ball player. I will play anywhere, anytime. I am glad we finished that game off strong.”

West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Darius Stills (56) tackles Army Black Knights quarterback Tyhier Tyler (2) (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

Stills’ name was well-known throughout West Virginia late in his high school career yet he wasn’t attracting a high volume of interest from ‘Power 5’ schools. That fact never escaped him.

“I knew what type of football player I could be. I knew if I just worked hard at that, I would get there. I am not there yet. But I know I am very close.

“It fueled that fire and made the chip on my shoulder bigger. I am the type of guy that likes to prove people wrong. The best feeling is not to seek revenge, but just to succeed.”

Stills played in 21 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons in 2017 and 2018. But he thrived in his junior season, following the transition in coaching staffs from Dana Holgorsen to Neal Brown.

“I heard the coaching staff coming in was going to run a four-down front and let us get after it because that is what they did at Troy. I was just really happy to get the opportunity.”

As a junior, Stills earned All-Big 12 first team honors while starting 11 games. He led WVU in tackles for loss (14.5) and tied for the team lead with seven sacks.

Darius Stills (56) celebrates after sacking Baylor Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer (Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports)

“Over time, I was maturing by learning about the game and slowing it down in my head. I knew I could shoot gaps and I could play ball. But I just had to learn how to do it, when to do it and where to do it. Maturing mentally throughout the years definitely helped. And learning new schemes benefitted me and made me more in tune with what is going on.”

In the 2019 season opener against James Madison, Stills collected six tackles and blocked a field goal. It was in that game that he gained added belief that he could evolve into an impact player.

“I got that sack and I knew that I could play this game. That’s when the confidence kicked in. Once you get confidence, you can do anything.”

.@DariusStills56 talks to @TonyCaridi, @BradHowe07 and @HunterWvu88bgn about his preparation for the NFL Draft. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/ON7zYRgllt

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 19, 2021

In many ways, Stills introduced himself to the college football world with his performance on Halloween night at Baylor.

“I knew I had three sacks but I didn’t know how many tackles I had because I was just playing ball. I didn’t really care because I was just trying to win the game. They said, ‘You had ten tackles’. I was like, ‘Woah’.”

Stills entered his senior season as the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and he backed up those lofty expectations by becoming WVU’s first consensus All-American in fourteen seasons. It is difficult for defensive linemen to make plays that go viral on highlight reels. Stills did just that with a diving interception against Kansas for his first collegiate turnover.

“I was running and I saw the ball tipped up. I knew I was a little far but I was going to lay out for it. It worked out. It is crazy because you see those plays and you are like, ‘What if that was me’? It was me. So that’s crazy.”

West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Darius Stills (56) reacts after making an interception against Kansas Jayhawks Saturday, Oct. 16, 2020, in Morgantown (Photo by Will Wotring/The Dominion Post)

Darius’ days now follow a strict regiment of workouts, drills and lifting alongside other professional prospects.

“I wake up at 6:50 every morning and get a workout from 7-10. I get treatment right after. At 11:30, it is position work. Then we have a 1:30 lift. We train twice a day, so we have speed training in the morning. Then in the afternoon we have a heavy lift until about 3:00.

“Right now, they are training us for speed. So they are getting us lean, building lean muscle and shedding a lot of fat off our bodies.”

Even though Darius will be playing on Sundays next fall, he is confident the group he leaves behind can continue to succeed on WVU’s first line of defense.

“We’ve got Taijh (Alston), Jeff (Pooler), Dante (Stills). We’ve got Jordan Jefferson. We’ve got Tavis Lee. We’ve got a whole bunch of people. Just be ready. It is going to be a show.”

Stills leaves WVU with one regret. He never had to opportunity to line up on offense and find the end zone.

“I told Coach Brown throughout the whole season, I said, ‘Hey, if it is goal line, I will run the ball in and score. I promise you. He laughed about it but I was dead serious.”

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Spring semester at WVU underway with coronavirus rules remaining in place

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tuesday marked the start of the spring semester at West Virginia University and another grading period impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All students and faculty have been tested for the coronavirus, in which 168 students and 17 employees tested positive. Most students are quarantined off-campus, although some are living at residence halls and University Apartments.

Thirty-seven percent of this semester’s classes are in-person because of the pandemic; freshman, Capstone and select clinical courses include face-to-face instruction. Student programs, like Up All Night, have been shifted online.

“As we designed our programs and designed how we were teaching classes and what classes would be in-person, we listened to our students,” said Corey Farris, WVU’s dean of students. “We did more of that over the semester break, and we’ll do more of that during the spring semester.”

Campus-wide coronavirus protocols have not changed from the fall semester; facial coverings are still required, and large gatherings are prohibited.

University officials continue using signage and other communication formats to keep students and staff informed of the university’s coronavirus rules.

“We’ll continue that gentle reminding that what they do certainly does impact the community, from public schools to restaurants and bars,” Farris stated. “We’re in the community, and the students understand that.”

Instruction was suspended for three weeks at the start of the fall semester because of large gatherings and the potential risks associated with superspreader events.

Farris noted students learned lessons from the fall semester they will carry with them through the rest of the academic year, saying students understand the importance of face masks and social distancing.

April 30 is the final scheduled day of classes. Final exams will take place from May 4 through May 8.

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Thousands to get help with late electric bills following PSC pandemic-related order

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Service Commission is giving Appalachian Power Company the okay to use money saved in the 2018 federal tax cuts to help thousands of customers who haven’t been able to pay their monthly electric bills because of the pandemic.

The PSC approved a previous request from Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power companies Tuesday.

Phil Moye

Appalachian Power’s Phil Moye said the companies can now use $13 million it has in Fresh Start Funds to help with late power bills. Fresh Start was created after the federal tax cuts of 2018 in which Appalachian Power saved millions of dollars. The money has been used to help low-income customers with their bills.

Moye said approximately 27,000 customers late on their bills since the pandemic started will receive a credit as a result of the PSC’s order.

“Those customers will automatically see a credit on their electric bill. They won’t have to apply for it or anything like that. It will come as a credit with the bill and we’ll be sending out a letter to customers explaining the specifics to them,” Moye told MetroNews.

The amount of the credit will differ per customer. It will be based on the status of the customer’s account and what portion of their past due balance is eligible, Moye said.

“What we’re really trying to do is to see the people who were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic receive some assistance with their electric bills because it’s just one of those things, a lot of people have been affected,” Moye said.

He added many of the customers have not had prior issues.

“With the pandemic we’ve seen a lot of people who have never struggled to pay an electric bill,” Moye said.

Charlotte Lane

PSC Chair Charlotte Lane called the financial impact of the pandemic on utility customers “ongoing and unprecedented” in a Tuesday statement.

“Although the Fresh Start Fund was initially created to assist low-income customers, none of us could have predicted where we find ourselves today,” Lane said. “Many of our fellow West Virginians who have never asked for or needed this kind of assistance, find themselves in unimaginably dire circumstances. It makes perfect sense to allow the use of these funds to help as wide a pool of customers as possible.”

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McCuskey takes oath for second term

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Auditor J.B. McCuskey was sworn-in to his second term in front of the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg Tuesday morning.

The oath of office was administered by U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh.

McCuskey, a Republican, was first elected to the statewide office in the November 2016 General Election. He won a second four-year term last November.

“As my second term begins, I will continue to serve the people of West Virginia to the very best of my ability,” McCuskey, a former member of the House of Delegates said in a statement. “I will keep advocating strongly for a government that remains transparent and listens to the taxpayers. We will go forward together as part of the greatest nation on Earth, knowing our willingness and ability to respect our differences will make us even stronger.”

McCuskey was joined by his wife and two daughters at Tuesday’s ceremony. He will take a ceremonial oath of office Friday as part of Gov. Jim Justice inauguration ceremony at the state capitol.

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WVU hosts K-State Wednesday seeking their sixth consecutive win

(Mike Carey pregame Zoom conference)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The WVU women’s basketball team has won five consecutive games while Kansas State has had their last five games postponed. The Mountaineers will host the Wildcats Wednesday evening at the Coliseum. The two teams were scheduled to meet two weeks ago in Manhattan but KSU has been on pause due to COVID protocols.

“Are they bringing everybody? We’ll see at game time. We know that is the way it is going to be this year. We’ll prepare for everybody and do what we do. That way, we are prepared for the game no matter who dresses,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey.

The Mountaineers (10-2, 4-2 Big 12) haven’t lost since falling at Oklahoma State on December 18. WVU avenged that loss to the Cowgirls Saturday, defeating OSU 67-59. The Mountaineers rallied back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter. Leading scorer Kysre Gondrezick did not play for West Virginia. She was attending the funeral of her father in Michigan. Carey says Gondrezick will be back in the lineup Wednesday.

Kansas State (5-4, 0-2) split two meetings with the Mountaineers last year, with each team winning on the others’ home floor.

“We know they will play a 1-3-1 zone and a 2-3 zone. Early in the season, when they were playing, they played a little bit of man. We know they will overload for the 6-6 girl. Because I have been in this league and (KSU head coach) Jeff (Mittie) has been in this league a while, I know what he likes to do. And they know what we like to do. So he is not going to go away from that.”

K-State is led in scoring and rebounding by 6-foot-6 sophomore center Ayoka Lee. She scored 27 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in two meetings against the Mountaineers last year.

“She is a legit 6-6 and has gotten stronger and more mobile. She is a great player in this conference. It takes three people to guard her. I always say that you have to have ball pressure on the passer, you have to front her and then you have to have weak side.”

WVU head coach Mike Carey (Photo by Dale Sparks)

After dropping their first two Big 12 games in December, WVU has climbed up to fourth place in the league standings, one game behind league-leading Iowa State. The Mountaineers are 24th in Tuesday’s edition of the NCAA NET ratings and they are receiving the fourth-most votes beyond the Top 25 teams in both the AP and coaches polls. WVU is a projected No. 6 seed in Charlie Creme’s ESPN Bracketology this week.

WVU jumped out to a 13-1 start last season before losing 11 of their final 15 games. Carey believes there is a significant difference in the makeup of this year’s roster.

“Every team is different. Even though you have a lot of the same players, different things happen during the course of the year. There’s different chemistries and that type of stuff. I think our chemistry this year is a lot better than what it was last year. I think our work ethic this year is a lot better than what it was last year. And I think our younger players got a lot better from last year.”

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West Virginian accused with U.S. Capitol mob is released on bond, gets exception to travel for class

A West Virginian charged in the mob at the U.S. Capitol was released on $10,000 bond today with conditions that include obeying the law.

A criminal complaint filed Saturday named Gracyn Courtright, a Hurricane High School graduate. An accompanying affidavit describes Courtright entering the U.S. Capitol and wandering around with a Senate “Members Only” sign until an officer took it away from her. Her image was captured by her own social media and surveillance video.

Courtright appeared in a preliminary hearing today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley.

Tinsley laid out release conditions that limit Courtright’s travel to southern West Virginia or the District of Columbia, where she is actually charged. Her lawyer worked out some flexibility for Courtright to travel to Lexington, Ky., where she is finishing her senior year at the University of Kentucky, mostly taking classes online.

Courtright expects to graduate college in May.

She faces charges of knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority, knowingly engaging in disorderly conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and theft of government property valued less than $1,000.

“If you were to be convicted of either of these offenses, you would be exposed to years in prison. Do you understand that?” Tinsley asked Courtright.

“Yes, your honor,” she responded.

Gracyn Courtright

Courtright today waived an identity hearing, where she could have disputed that she’s the person being accused. And she also waived a pre-trial hearing.

Courtright is among about a hundred cases related to this month’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. There are more than 275 open investigations into potential criminal activity on that day, acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said on Friday.

Many of them have been identified through their own social media posts, the videos of others, through surveillance footage or by a combination.

Wayne County resident Derrick Evans, who had just been elected to West Virginia’s House of Delegates, was also among the early arrests. Evans faces two federal misdemeanors for entering the Capitol as he livestreamed. He has resigned from the Legislature.

The mob storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence. One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and 50 police officers were injured. Capitol Police announced one police officer died of injuries sustained during the riot.

The affidavit notes that a photo published in The Washington Post appeared to show Courtright among a crowd that initially clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol.

The investigator reached that conclusion by comparing Courtright’s attire in the other images with a similarly-clad person in the photo. The investigator also compared video that Courtright posted with the timing the photo was captured.

Courtright, now a senior mathematical economics major at the University of Kentucky, described her presence at the Capitol on social media posts that have now been deleted. Screenshots were preserved and were described in the affidavit.

One now-deleted video includes the caption, “PEACEFULLY CHANTING!!!!!!! Nobody fighting or destroying anything some of my cnn & Fox News watchers need to think for themselves.”

A photo posted outside in Washington, D.C., shows her holding up an American flag and is captioned “can’t wait to tell my grandkids I was here.”

In a direct message conversation with an acquaintance that was provided to investigators, Courtright is asked if she was at the Capitol. Courtright responded, “Yes, it wasn’t violent like the news said” and “I took pictures all in the building.” She added, “I never saw the violence.”

In the private messaging, Courtright went on to say, “I walked into the chamber like the Senate where the desk are.” She wrote, “it’s history” and “I thought it was cool.”

The acquaintance pushed back that the Capitol activities amounted to treason. Courtright responded, “idk what treason is” — short for I don’t know.

Security footage from Jan. 6 shows Courtright entering the Capitol building through a door near the West Senate stairs about 2:42 p.m. About 20 minutes later, a camera caught her image walking up the steps near the Senate chamber and carrying the “Members Only” sign. She was not seen entering the Senate Chamber.

A few minutes later, at 3:05, she was seen on the second floor. At that point, a law enforcement officer took the “Members Only” sign away from her. Courtright left the building through the north door.

 

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Get ready, the Huff era is underway

HUNTINGTON – New Marshall Football Coach Charles Huff’s message to Thundering Herd players, coaches and fans was simple and direct – “Get ready.”

“Our goal is to produce a football program that we all can be proud of. A program that matches the history and the tradition of this great university from top to bottom,” stated Huff during his introductory press conference on Monday.

Being the best football program in Conference USA is Huff’s broad vision for the Herd and promised that Marshall can achieve that by bridging the championship expectations with the process that it takes to become a champion, a checklist of hard work, daily habits and consistency.

“Everyone should take the attitude that we’re working to be a champion. We’re not working for championships; we’re not working for a certain game. We’re working to be a champion in everything that we do. Everyone’s got to take ownership, relative to their role in the program, that they are going to be the best and commit to making it the best program in Conference USA.”

Fans go into each season with the outlook that Marshall should be playing for a conference title at the end of the year and the dream that the Herd can find its way to a New Year’s Day Bowl and represent the best of the Group of Five schools.

Huff welcomed the challenge and made it clear that his expectations are that no one will outwork his team as he pledged to have the fastest, most physical football team in the country, a team that opponents will hate to line up against.

“Expectations are high but I can promise you that my expectations are higher. It’s important that everybody understands, I want to win every game, whether is checkers or Connect-Four,” Huff stated.

MORE Search committee member discusses process

“That starts with preparation. That starts with condition and that starts with buying into the process,” Huff said.

There’s no doubt that Huff understands what it takes to produce champions. Huff spent the last two seasons at the University of Alabama where he was able learn from Nick Saban, one of the college football’s greatest coaches. For Huff, there was nowhere near enough time to dive into all that he learned from Saban but he specifically noted one aspect of the Alabama program he wants to instill at Marshall.

“The ability to sustain success is through consistency in approach, consistency in message and consistency in work ethic. When you look at the Alabama program, the one thing that a lot of people will recognize is the sustained success. Coach Saban has instilled that in me. This is not a rebuild. This is a program that has had success.”

Not only is Huff planning to bring that philosophy with him Huntington, he also wants to implement the offensive style that produced nearly 50 points a game and averaged 541 yards of offense each week. Huff wants to stretch the field with the Run-Pass-Option, plus wants to add the pro-style drop-back pass to make things even tougher on opposing defensive coordinators.

“It produces a fun brand of football for the players and fans. I think everybody likes when the scoreboard goes up in our favor. You can’t win the game if you don’t score. If you’re not trying score then why are you playing?”

Recruiting is the first order of business for Huff and that starts in Marshall’s own locker room both players and coaches.

“It’s my job to recruit the current players and the current coaches because you don’t have the success you’ve had at this university without good coaches. It’s my job to make sure all the puzzle pieces fit together so that we can build on the success this program has already had.”

Get ready Herd fans. The Charles Huff era is underway.

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Source: WV MetroNews

State board of education set to discuss districts not offering in-person learning option despite motion

GRAFTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education is set to hold an emergency session Wednesday morning to discuss county school systems that are not offering in-person learning to students due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The board unanimously passed a motion on January 13 that was meant to prevent county school systems from opting for remote learning after Tuesday, requiring school systems to have at least a blended schedule for elementary and middle school students.

The decision countermanded decisions that had already been made by several local boards. Some school systems have adjusted and began offering blended learning Tuesday but seven school systems remain all remote.

The state Department of Education included Berkeley County, Marion County, Gilmer County, Monongalia County, Harrison County, Taylor County, and Jefferson County in a report.

The board issued a statement Tuesday about its meeting, “The West Virginia Board of Education will meet in emergency session to consider a report from the State Superintendent regarding counties that have not complied with the WVBE’s motion of January 13 and are not currently offering in-person learning options to all families. The meeting will take place at noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, in Capitol Building 6, Room 353, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East, Charleston, West Virginia.”

The West Virginia Board of Education will meet in an emergency session tomorrow, January 20, at noon. The meeting agenda may be accessed here: https://t.co/aBFSe0CtMH. pic.twitter.com/pgc80iQne8

— West Virginia Department of Education (@WVeducation) January 19, 2021

Christy Miller, Taylor County Schools Superintendent appeared on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ to discuss the county’s decision to remain all-remote through January.

She said through discussion with local health officials, it’s the best decision for right now but is hoping to reevaluate the decision on January 29.

“Over the last week, we had an infection rate that started at 75.3 and dropped to 49.43. Our positivity rate continues to decline as well,” she said.

“I am hopeful the next decision we make will at least be able to bring us back to a blended model where we have our students divided in half by alphabet.”

She described the first semester of learning with in-person and virtual as stressful and interesting but everything has been about the student’s and staff’s safety.

“Our teachers have set up scheduled face-to-face time periods with their students,” Miller said of the next two weeks with Taylor County Schools. “They are providing it through the Teams platform to each of our students with the schedule of Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday.”

Jackson County Schools went back to the physical classroom Tuesday with all schools as the county was not red on the COVID-19 alert map.

Luke Swiney, Principal at Ravenswood High School, told MetroNews affiliate WMOV Radio that all guidelines must be followed to make it a safe and healthy return. He said students have done well with the rules.

“It’s very important to do the social distancing, wear the masks. As staff members, we model that and we see kids wearing theirs,” he said.

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Source: WV MetroNews