Saturday, October 25, 2014

Secretary McDonald: VA is critical to medicine and vets

By Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs

October 24, 2014

During preparation for my confirmation as secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), I was repeatedly asked, "Why doesn't VA just hand out vouchers allowing veterans to get care wherever they want?" For a department recovering from serious issues involving health care access and scheduling of appointments, that was a legitimate question.

After nine weeks at VA, travel to 31 VA facilities in 15 cities, discussions with hundreds of veterans and VA clinicians, meetings with 75 Members of Congress, two hearings before the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees and dozens of meetings with Veterans Service Organizations and other stakeholders, I can answer that question.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

U.S. Oil Exports Would Worsen Global Warming, Government Auditors Say

Photo courtesy of Eric Kounce
Looked at from the vantage point of the climate crisis, GAO report discussing several benefits of lifting the oil export ban is more disturbing.

By John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News

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U.S. Oil Exports Would Worsen Global Warming, Government Auditors Say | InsideClimate News

Domestic violence complaint leads to arrest for narcotics

Lori Lee Lyons
ATHENS - Athens County Sheriff's deputies responded Wednesday to a domestic violence complaint on Gun Club Road. Both parties advised deputies there were no threats of violence or physical violence during the dispute.

One of the subjects, Lori Lyons was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Hocking County involving alleged trafficking and possession of heroin. Lyons was transported to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail in Nelsonville and faces a bond hearing Thursday in the Hocking County Court of Common Pleas. 

ODNR announces complete cabin renovation program at Hocking Hills State Park

LOGAN, Ohio - Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer announced Wednesday several capital improvement projects at Hocking Hills State Park.

“Hocking Hills continues to receive international acclaim and is certainly one of Ohio’s greatest natural treasures,” said Zehringer. “These improvements allow us to enhance the experience of our guests as we showcase this beautiful park and introduce more visitors to the great things Ohio has to offer.” 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Frech to resign as job and family services director at year's end - The Athens Messenger

ATHENS - Athens County Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Jack Frech will resign his position at the end of the year. The decision was announced Tuesday following a pre-disciplinary hearing with the Athens County Commissioners.

Frech has held the position for over 32 years and the resignation comes amid disputed allegations raised by the commission.

Frech has been an outspoken advocate for the poor in Athens County and Appalachian Ohio. 

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Frech to resign as job and family services director at end of year

Subject sought in reported break-in attempt in Athens

File photo
On Monday, the Athens County Sheriff's Office responded to an attempted break in on Lemaster Road in Athens. The resident was home and heard a knock at the front door. As the resident approached the front door, a noise came from the back of the house.

A male subject was attempting to come through the door. The resident reportedly screamed and the subject ran from the residence, headed down Lemaster Road towards The Plains.

The subject is described as 6 foot 1 inch tall, 180 to 200 pounds with dark brown hair which is grown out, a blue zip up hooded sweatshirt and khaki colored pants. Deputies searched the area but were unable to locate the subject.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Athens County crime reports

Athens County Sheriff’s Office

October 17

Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to North Third Street in Jacksonville in response to a residential burglar alarm. No signs of forced entry were evident and the scene was secured.
Deputy Atkins and a Highway Patrol trooper responded to Torch Road in response to multiple reports of a female subject possibly harming herself. Atkins determined the subject had harmed herself and needed medical attention. According to Atkins, the subject became aggressive and allegedly grabbed a knife and began slicing at her throat and arms. Atkins alleges the subject lunged at him and made several gestures to the trooper if she was going to throw the knife at him.

After additional deputies arrived at the scene, the subject was reportedly tasered, handcuffed and transported to O'Bleness Memorial Hospital for evaluation and treatment of her wounds.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

PUCO advises residents to arrange for propane supply early

COLUMBUS, Ohio  - The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO)  joins the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) in encouraging Ohio consumers to consider the following steps to proactively prepare for the coming winter heating season.

Check your current propane supply. Make sure that you are aware of your current supply to decide your needs to get through the heating season.

Call your provider. Get in touch with the propane provider that issued your tank. Begin a good working relationship and develop a plan for your propane supply including refills, automatic refills and payment programs to make sure your tank stays full.

CNN withdraws support of the National Association of Black Journalists

MINNEAPOLISMinnesota - The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Board of Directors Meeting, President Bob Butler announced that long-time supporter CNN has withdrawn support of NABJ for the 2015 Convention & Career Fair.

NABJ issued a statement last week, "NABJ Concerned About Atmosphere at CNN for African Americans", in which NABJ expressed concern over the large number of African-American staff members leaving and being fired from the cable news network. Several African-Americans anchors have left the anchor desk or CNN altogether in the past few years.

Following the release CNN contacted NABJ President Bob Butler and informed him the association's request for support was denied.

Since that time CNN announced a major layoff in which at least five senior managers were laid off. In the past year nearly a dozen African American managers have resigned, been laid off or were terminated."

"I understand the company has a right to make personnel decisions," said NABJ President Bob Butler. "There were not that many African American managers at CNN in the first place. These layoffs have hurt our members tremendously. I am severely disappointed that CNN has ended our partnership."

NABJ was established as an advocacy group in 1975 in Washington, D.C., and is now the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation. It provides career development, educational support and other services to its members worldwide.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ODNR urges Ohioans to exercise care during fall wildfire season

ODNR's new Smokey Bear video reminds us "Only you can prevent wildfires!"

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
COLUMBUS, OH - Nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people, which is why Ohioans should take the necessary precautions if they plan to burn debris, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, ODNR. Ohio law states outdoor debris burning is prohibited from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. during October and November.

New this year, ODNR partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and Columbus College of Art and Design to produce a new Smokey Bear music video and education kit reminding Ohioans of all ages how they can prevent fires. View the entertaining educational video at

“Please be safe and responsible when conducting outdoor burns this season,” said ODNR Deputy Director and State Forester Robert Boyles. “We are fortunate in Ohio that we haven’t experienced fires like those our wildfire crews helped fight in the Western states, but life, property and natural resources are always at risk when people are careless with their fires.”

Outdoor debris burning is limited in the fall due to the abundance of dry fuel on the ground from dried grasses, weeds and leaves. Winds can make a seemingly safe fire quite hazardous. Violators of Ohio’s burning regulations are subject to citations and fines. Residents should also check Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulations and consult with local fire department officials about burning conditions and safety considerations.

If a fire does escape control, immediately contact the local fire department. An escaped wildfire, even one burning in grass or weeds, is dangerous.

The ODNR Division of Forestry offers these safety tips for burning debris outdoors:

  • Consider using a 55-gallon drum with a weighted screen lid to provide an enclosed incinerator.
  • Know current and future weather conditions, and do not leave debris burning unattended.
  • Keep suppression tools such as a charged water hose, shovel and a rake close by while burning debris.
  • Be informed about state and local burning regulations. Homeowners living within incorporated limits should check with their fire department for local ordinances. Most incorporated areas do not allow open debris burning due to the close proximity of homes and businesses.
Visit and for more information and tips on protecting a home and community.

Remember, Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires!”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Athens County crime reports

File photo/Michael O'Brien
On October 8, Athens County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to the area of Floyd Drive in The Plains. A caller reported seeing two unknown individuals attempting to gain entry into several vehicles. Deputies searched the area and found footprints leading to a nearby storage facility. Further patrol of the area had negative contact.
On October 8, Athens County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to 5211 West Bailey Road for trespassing complaint. The trespasser was caught on by a trail camera and identified. The suspect will be served with a trespassing complaint.
Athens County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched October 8 to Route 50/32 near the intersection of County Road where a possible methamphetamine lab bottle was found along side the road. State Highway Patrol Sgt. Hayes was at the location along with Department of Rehabilitation Corrections workers who where part of a litter collection detail.
Deputy Crites observed the bottle which had a white sludge substance and a tube coming out of the top which looked to be a gas generator for the manufacture of meth. Crites neutralized the gas generator and placed into a container so it could be properly destroyed.
On October 9, Athens County Sheriff's Deputy Gillette responded to a complaint of recent activity in the area of Main Street in Stewart of unwanted animal parts and blood placed in and on several vehicles. An unknown person or persons placed a severed pigs’ head and intestines on a vehicle, blood was found on vehicles and a dead raccoon found inside a vehicle. There are leads or suspects at this time.
The Athens County Sheriff's Office took a harassment report on October 9 of a death threat from June 16, 2014. The alleged threat took place at the Maplewood Cemetery during a funeral. A family member was upset another family member received the military flag and not them.
A possible theft was reports October 9 to the Athens County Sheriff's Office . A birth certificate and a children's book were in the attic of a residence but the complaintant has been unable to locate the items within this past year. No signs of forced entry into residence were noted in the report.
An Athens County Sheriff's deputy were dispatched October 9 to 14 Pine St. in The Plains for a complaint of a Honda emblem taken off a vehicle. While at the location, the deputy was informed by two other individuals that Honda emblems were also taken off their vehicles. All parties involved requested extra patrol of the area.

The Athens County Sheriff's Office issued a no trespass complaint October 9 to a man alleged to have placed bumper stickers on the Athens County Court House church bulletin board. Court Baliff and Reserve Deputy Jason Wickman served the complaint and advised the man he would be subject to an arrest for criminal trespass if he returns.

Vinton County Sheriff warns residents of phone scam

Photo by Michael O'Brien
MCARTHUR - Vinton County Sheriff Shawn reported that on October 1, a business owner in Vinton County received a phone call from a man saying his name was Charles Henderson with Buckeye Rural Electric. The caller claimed the business was seriously behind on the gas bill.

When the owner told the male caller she had all electric and no gas, then the caller provided  a phone number, instructing the owner to call and ask for "Stephanie” who would then verify the past due billing.

Stephanie informed the owner she owed $2,098 and her electric service would be disconnected within the hour if she did not pay. Stephanie then instructed the owner to go to a Kroger or Dollar Store with cash and then call back for further instructions. The number that came up on the owner’s phone was 218-600-2650. A Google search of the phone number indicated it was part of a scam.

“This is an obvious scam so don’t fall this. It is serious because the callers are telling you to bring cash somewhere and then call them back,” Sheriff Justice said. “This could be a possible robbery attempt, or it could be that they would have you get a money order and tell you where to send it.

Justice said anyone receiving a similar phone call or mailing should contact the Sheriff's Office, 740-596-5242, and ask to speak with a deputy or to the sheriff.

“If you ever have a question or a "red flag" that something is not right, it probably isn't, call me,” Justice said. “We would be glad to help.”

What the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage means to Ohio

Photo by Michael O'Brien
The U.S. Supreme Court decision to let stand same-sex marriage laws in several states. Leaders on both sides of the gay rights movement agree that Ohio will not automatically will follow suit,

By Darrel Rowland

The Columbus Dispatch  •  Monday October 6, 2014

What today's Supreme Court decision on gay marriage means to Ohio

VA processes more than 1.3 million veterans’ claims in FY2014

150,000 more Veterans received faster, more accurate decisions than FY13
 PhotoVA/Robert Turtil
WASHINGTON, D.C – More than 1.3 million Veterans received decisions on their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal year (FY) 2014 – the highest number in VA’s history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims.

In a media release, the VA announced that 2014 was second year of record-breaking production as VA continues to transform the way it provides benefits and services, to deliver faster and higher quality decisions, to Veterans, their families and survivors. At the end of the year, the disability claims backlog (defined as any disability claim pending longer than 125 days) was reduced by 60 percent from the peak backlog in March 2013 and is at its lowest number in nearly 4 years. Veterans waited, on average, 119 fewer days for a decision on their claim than Veterans did in FY 2013. VA is on target to hit its 2015 goal
The VA says the improvements were not made at the expense of quality. The accuracy of VA’s decisions continues to rise from an 83-percent accuracy level in 2011 to a 90-percent accuracy level today.  When focusing specifically at the medical issue level, accuracy is at 96 percent.

“I am so proud of our employees – more than half of whom are Veterans themselves – who continue to work tirelessly to deliver the benefits our Veterans have earned through their service to our Nation,” said Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey. “But we all also recognize there is still much more work to do to better serve Veterans.”