Students study relocating rattlesnakes away from humans
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Marshall University graduate students are aiding Division of Natural Resources biologists in determining whether timber rattlesnakes can be moved to locations where they have fewer interactions with humans. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports a three-year survey found the Kanawha State Forest and Coopers Rock State Forest are among the top spots in the state for human encounters with rattlers. The graduate students have captured and tagged 30 of the snakes and are relocating some of them. They will attempt to determine how well the snakes adapt to their relocation and whether they try to return to their home territories. Timber rattlers are considered a vulnerable species and encounters with humans are one of their biggest threats.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia gov details plans for $1.25B aid package
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has unveiled his plans for a $1.25 billion coronavirus aid package after months of questions over how he would spend the money. The Republican governor’s strategy for the federal CARES Act relief fund was disclosed Friday after local, state and federal officials urged him to distribute the cash as widespread business shutdowns hammered the economy. He has dismissed the demands as politically driven. Justice had long said he wanted to use the package to fill holes in the state budget, though federal rules limited spending to costs incurred due to the pandemic. He said attorneys have determined that his plans for the federal aid are legal.
Governors face competing voices as reported virus cases rise
LAS VEGAS (AP) — With reported coronavirus cases rising rapidly in many states, governors are getting lots of advice on how to respond. Unions want to be sure workers are protected on the job. Many business owners say they can’t afford another forced shutdown. Public health officials urge them to make mask-wearing a statewide requirements. But governors also are facing pushback on the right over business restrictions and mask regulations. The competing voices on what to reopen and what limits to impose have led to a push-and-pull across the states as governors consider whether to backtrack on reopening and reimpose restrictions.
Firefighter charged with setting blaze that killed responder
WELCH, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities in West Virginia say a volunteer firefighter accused of setting a blaze that killed a fellow fireman has been charged with murder and arson. A criminal complaint shows that 36-year-old Robert Lee Beckner was charged with first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree arson on Thursday. An investigator with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office wrote that Beckner confessed to setting a blaze at his own home in Iaeger last weekend. Officials said 42-year-old Russell Roberson was responding with the local volunteer fire department when he was fatally injured while attempting to save a man nearby. It’s unclear whether Beckner has an attorney who can comment for him.
3,600 West Virginians file for jobless aid amid coronavirus
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Officials say a historically high number of West Virginians are still filing for unemployment benefits even as the state continues to lift coronavirus restrictions. Federal data released Thursday shows that about 3,600 people filed claims last week and that claims have been falling slightly as businesses have reopened. More than 250,000 unemployment claims have been processed in West Virginia since the pandemic forced widespread shutdowns in March. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has already eased most virus restrictions, allowing restaurants and other businesses to reopen. This month he allowed sporting events with spectators to resume and has set July 1 as the date when fairs and festivals can be held.
West Virginia Supreme Court now has an Instagram account
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — People seeking more information about the judiciary in West Virginia can now check the state Supreme Court’s new Instagram account. The court announced this week it is adding Instagram to its social media accounts, which also include Twitter, Facebook, SmugMug, Flickr and YouTube. Chief Justice Tim Armstead says adding the account is part of the court’s work to “ensure transparency and accountability throughout the court system.”