www.wvgazettemail.com Business http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers State mortgage interest rates drop to historic lows http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150722/DM01/150729828 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150722/DM01/150729828 Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:23:49 -0500 Home mortgage interest rates through the West Virginia Housing Development Fund dropped Tuesday to 2.81 percent, the lowest level in the agency's history.

The new 30-year fixed loan rate was announced Tuesday by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who attributed the decrease to a $15 million bond issue from the state Housing Development Fund. That money will be used specifically to help low- to moderate-income West Virginians become first-time homeowners.

The funds for the low rate loans are limited. The income limit is $45,000 per year for households with two people and $55,000 for households with three people. The state's median household income is just above $41,000.

Because funding is limited, applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Due to low loan rates and other market factors like the availability of affordable housing, West Virginia has the highest homeownership rate in the country, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data. The median price of a home in West Virginia is also the lowest in the country at $94,500.

West Virginia's housing market has grown over the past decade. According to www.gobankingrates.com, the share of new first-time homeowners increased 57.6 percent between 2003 and 2013. Foreclosures also have remained low at less than one percent in 2015.

Due to these factors, West Virginia is considered a state friendly to first-time homeowners.

While the national homeownership rate is the lowest it's been in 25 years at 63 percent, 73 percent of homes in West Virginia are owned by their occupants. The homeownership rate is calculated by dividing the number of owner-occupied housing units by the total number of occupied housing units.

New Charleston-area Sheetz, Chipotle shaping up http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/DM01/150719224 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/DM01/150719224 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 19:37:35 -0500 Construction continues apace on new South Charleston food options. The Sheetz convenience store chain has developed something of a cult following thanks to its Made-To-Order menu, where consumers can order sandwiches, sides and salads via touch screen. The company's first Kanawha County franchise, which will feature a self-serve creamery and coffee bar is set to open along MacCorkle Avenue between Park and MacDonald avenues on Nov. 5.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is also building its first Charleston-area location in Southridge Center off Corridor G. According to plans submitted to the city building commission, the new eatery, located between the Texas Steakhouse and Bob Evans restaurants, is set to offer seating for 51, plus 22 in an outdoor patio area.

Daily Mail, Gazette become the Charleston Gazette-Mail http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/DM01/150719226 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150719/DM01/150719226 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 19:31:00 -0500 The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail have been your local source for news for more than a century.

The two newspapers operated independently for readers and advertisers until January 1, 1958, when the owners merged the business, advertising, circulation and production departments into a single corporation.

Beginning today the two newspapers are combining newsroom functions with the exception of editorial page content.

Welcome to the Charleston Gazette-­Mail.

This is not one paper gobbling up the other. It is a combination of the two newsroom staffs working in cooperation to produce the most comprehensive news product in West Virginia. We are committed to producing the best example of journalism delivered to your home, in the paper boxes, on your mobile devices and on your computer every morning.

Our daily product will be stronger in several ways:

We are committed to two completely independent editorial pages ­ the one on the left representing the Gazette's progressive view and the one on the right keeping the Daily Mail's conservative view. This format has been enjoyed by our readers for more than a decade in our combined Saturday publication and more recently in our combined holiday editions.

We will produce more local coverage than either newspaper could individually. We can dedicate increased resources to investigative reporting and bolster our online presence with more breaking news and multimedia. For West Virginia features, photography and sports, The Charleston Gazette­-Mail will be second to none.

We will retain the current comics, puzzles, and syndicated features that are currently enjoyed by both the Gazette and Daily Mail readers.

The combined paper will be a showcase for the talented journalists you have enjoyed in the Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail.

We hope that you will be patient with us as we work through the bumps that are inevitably part of any change. The Charleston Gazette­-Mail will be the strongest source of news coverage and our goal is to produce an excellent newspaper for our readers. This new publication is to maintain the content and values of the Gazette and Daily Mail.

We are proud that a city the size of Charleston, West Virginia has been able to support two top­ notch daily newspapers as long as it has. We look forward to continuing to provide you with news on government, business, sports, entertainment, and all of the other high quality coverage you have come to expect from us.

Charleston Town Center Gap store among those closing http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150716/DM01/150719425 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150716/DM01/150719425 Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:41:51 -0500 Laura Haight By Laura Haight Shoppers looking for deals on khakis will have to look elsewhere as the Charleston Town Center Gap store closes its doors at the end of the month.

Gap announced on Monday that it will be closing 175 of its North America stores, as well as cutting 250 jobs at its headquarters in San Francisco, according to the Associated Press.

The closing stores fates were decided by performance factors and location. Gap, which opened in Town Center in 1997, will be closed by the end of July.

Gap Inc., which owns Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta, will not be closing any of the Gap Outlet or Gap Factory stores.

There are two remaining Gap stores in West Virginia, one in Morgantown and another in Bridgeport. It is unknown whether those stores will be closing as well.

"While a generation of shoppers will miss shopping at the GAP, we acknowledge this opportunity this departure provides in attracting a more popular retailer to the 8,400 square foot space," Charleston Town Center Marketing Director Lisa McCracken said in a news release.

It's unclear what will be replacing Gap in the mall.

However, with the closing of Gap brings three more stores.

Rack Room Shoes will be opening by the end of this month. Rue 21 and Sleep Outfitters will be opening mid-August.

Rue 21 will have a hiring event in the mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact writer Laura Haight at 304-348-4872 or laura.haight@dailymailwv.com.

State improves pension rankings http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM01/150719507 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM01/150719507 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 21:17:50 -0500 Samuel Speciale By Samuel Speciale The country's public employee pension funding shortfall is set to eclipse $1 trillion, according to new research from the Pew Charitable Trust, but the study has found that states like West Virginia have made significant moves since the 2008 recession to close that gap.

According to the report, released Tuesday and presented to state retirement officials on Wednesday, West Virginia has dramatically improved its pension funding rank over the last decade, moving from dead last in 2003 to 27th in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.

During that time frame, the state's funding ratio has increased, from 40 percent to 67 percent, good for a spot at the middle of the 50-state ranking.

Despite the improvement, West Virginia's pension system is still lacking by industry standards with more money still being promised to workers than what is available.

In 2013, the state had $16.7 billion in pension liabilities, more than $5 billion of which was unfunded. Most experts believe pension systems need to be funded at least 80 percent to be considered healthy. The national average comes in only at 71 percent.

Still, recognition for its improvements is seen as a good mark by state retirement officials. West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board executive director Jeffrey Fleck said Wednesday he was proud to report favorable news for once.

The board administers retirement benefits to teachers, judges, state troopers and other public employees.

Once one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country, West Virginia policymakers over the years have implemented "strong contribution policies" to substantially close its funding gap, the report says.

According to the report, West Virginia is one of 20 states in 2013 to pay its full actuarial required contribution - the recommended amount set aside to fund retirement benefits. The report says that practice, along with debt payments out-pacing interest on pension debt, has reduced the amount of unfunded liabilities.

But funding changes could be coming, the report indicated.

For years, states have closed pension funding gaps with investment returns from the stock market. The report says that no longer is a reliable option.

"State and local policymakers ... instead need to put in place funding policies that put them on track to pay down pension debt," the authors say in their report.

Past measures state officials have used to tackle the debt include using budget surpluses to shore up pension reserves.

In 2005, then-Gov. Joe Manchin and the Legislature were faced with more than $10 billion in pension debt, which was partially addressed by privatizing workers' compensation and using budget surpluses.

Going back further, pensions were in an even worse state in the 1990s when teacher retirement benefits were funded at a mere 8.8 percent, which prompted lawmakers to adopt a 40-year plan to pay off all of the state's unfunded pension liabilities - the amount of money still owed on state employee retirement plans.

Teachers' pensions are now more than 50 percent funded.

The report also said the health of pension systems will be better assessed next year when new standards will be used to evaluate 2014 data.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-7939. Follow him at www.twitter.com/samueljspeciale.

Japan 'Weird Hotel' run by robots http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM05/150719524 DM05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM05/150719524 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 19:28:14 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

SASEBO, Japan - From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that's an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is "manned" almost totally by robots to save labor costs.

Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency.

The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. "If you want to check in, push one," the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk, and type in information on a touch panel screen.

Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters Wednesday, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public Friday.

Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest's face during check-in.

The reason? Robots aren't good at finding keys, if people happen to lose them.

A giant robotic arm, usually seen in manufacturing, is encased in glass quarters in the corner of the lobby. It lifts one of the boxes stacked into the wall and puts it out through a space in the glass, where a guest can place an item in it, to use as a locker.

The arm will put the box back into the wall, until the guest wants it again. The system is called "robot cloak room."

Why a simple coin locker won't do isn't the point.

"I wanted to highlight innovation," Sawada told reporters. "I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up."

Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at $80, a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.

The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.

Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy. Robots have long been used here in manufacturing. But interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.

Robotics is also key in the decommissioning of the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.

One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.

The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.

"And they still can't make beds," said Sawada, who has also engineered the rise of a popular affordable Japanese travel agency.

He has big ambitions for his robot hotel concept and wants to open another one soon in Japan, and later abroad. He is also eager to add other languages, such as Chinese and Korean, to the robots' vocabulary.

A block-shaped robot that was scuttling around in the lobby had been brought in to do room service, delivering beverages and simple snacks. But it wasn't ready to do that yet.

Outdoors, Sawada also demonstrated a drone that flew in to deliver a few small jars filled with snacks. He said he wanted to eventually have drones perform in shows for guests.

In the hotel's rooms, a lamp-size robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly answers simple questions like, "What time is it?" and "What is the weather tomorrow?"

You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off. There are no switches on the walls.

Sawada is keeping the hotel half-filled for the first few weeks to make sure nothing goes wrong.

He also canceled at the last minute the overnight stay planned for media. The robots simply weren't ready.

Clashes break out as Greek lawmakers debate austerity bill http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/ARTICLE/150719607 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/ARTICLE/150719607 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 07:10:35 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Rioters hurled petrol bombs at police who responded with tear gas as an anti-austerity demonstration outside parliament turned violent Wednesday, while Greek lawmakers began debating contentious measures needed to start negotiations on a new bailout and avoid financial collapse.

Groups of youths among the more than 12,000 protesters smashed storefronts and set at least one vehicle alight. The clashes were the first significant protest violence since the left-wing Syriza government came to power in January promising to repeal bailout austerity. Police said at least 50 people were detained.

The protest was timed to coincide with the start of debate on the bill, which includes consumer tax increases and pension reforms that will condemn Greeks to years of more economic hardship.

The bill has fueled anger among the governing left-wing Syriza party and led to a revolt by many party members against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has insisted the deal forged early Monday after a marathon weekend eurozone summit was the best he could do to prevent Greece from crashing out of Europe's joint currency.

"I must tell you, that Monday morning at 9:30, it was the most difficult day of my life. It was a decision that will weigh on me for the rest of my life," said Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

"I don't know if we did the right thing. But I know we did something with the sense that we had no choice. Nothing was certain and nothing is," he said as the debate kicked off.

Civil servants protested with a 24-hour strike that disrupted public transport and shut down state-run services across the country.

Large numbers of Syriza lawmakers are almost certain to vote against the package, though the bill is expected to pass with support from pro-European opposition parties.

Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani resigned from her post, saying she could not vote in favor of the bill.

In a letter she sent to Tsipras on Monday and released by the finance ministry Wednesday, Valavani said she believed "dominant circles in Germany" were intent on "the full humiliation of the government and the country."

The economy ministry's secretary general, Manos Manousakis, also resigned over the agreement.

Tsipras agreed to a deal after a marathon 17-hour eurozone summit that ended Monday morning. It calls for Greece to pass new austerity measures his left-wing government had long battled against in return for the start of negotiations on a third bailout worth about 85 billion euros ($93 billion) in loans over three years.

The government, a coalition between Syriza and the small right-wing Independent Greeks, holds 162 seats in Greece's 300-member parliament. More than 30 of Syriza's own lawmakers have publicly voiced objections.

Tsipras has acknowledged the measures he agreed to go against his election pledges to repeal austerity, and described them in a Tuesday night television interview as "irrational."

But he said he had no option if he was to prevent Greece's financial collapse.

The International Monetary Fund, which was involved Greece's previous two bailouts and will also play a role in the third, has long argued the country's debt is too high and that any deal must include debt relief - something the Greek side has also insisted on.

In a report released late Tuesday, the IMF said Greece's debt was now "highly unsustainable" and would reach "close to 200 percent of GDP in the next two years."

On Wednesday, the European Union's executive Commission echoed that analysis, saying there are "serious concerns" about the sustainability of Greece's debt due to a worsening in the economy.

Tsipras has faced strident dissent even from top ministers, with Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis saying in a post on his ministry's website that the deal the prime minister reached was "unacceptable" and calling on him to withdraw it.

The civil servants' strike disrupted public services. Pharmacies joined in with their own 24-hour strike to object to the austerity deal, which will allow some non-prescription drugs to be sold by supermarkets.

"These laws will pass through parliament today, because they can't do otherwise," said Eleni Sari, 45, as she walked through central Athens.

"Naturally, the people are furious, and they have not allowed them any choice. Unfortunately it's not in our hands anymore. That is, it's no longer in the people's hands. By necessity ... they will pass them in parliament, and by necessity we will bear their burden."

Greeks continued to struggle with limits on cash withdrawals and transfers outside of the country. Banks were shut down June 29 and the finance ministry said they would remain closed through Thursday.

With its banks dangerously low on liquidity and the state practically out of cash, Greece desperately needs funds. It faces a Monday deadline to repay 4.2 billion euros ($4.6 billion) to the European Central Bank, and is also in arrears on 2 billion euros to the IMF.

Negotiations on the new bailout will take an estimated four weeks, leaving European finance ministers scrambling to find ways to get Athens some money sooner.

The European Commission has proposed giving Greece 7 billion euros in loans from a special fund overseen by all 28 EU nations so it can meet its upcoming debts. The loan would be made pending the start of a full bailout program, but faces resistance from Britain, a non-euro member of the EU.

Germany argued one way for Greece to meet its financing obligations was for it to issue IOUs for domestic needs.

New prevailing wage documents surface http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150714/DM01/150719638 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150714/DM01/150719638 Tue, 14 Jul 2015 19:14:57 -0500 Joel Ebert By Joel Ebert The ongoing prevailing wage discussion in West Virginia reached another level of intrigue on Tuesday when a state senator received a new batch of documents from WorkForce West Virginia, nearly a month after a previous request and subsequent response from the organization included no communications from private entities.

The state's Legislative Auditor also has determined the executive branch failed to provide all necessary documents to a legislative committee.

An analysis of a flash drive containing the original electronic files provided to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance by the executive branch on July 7 did not match a subsequently received second flash drive. Using a forensic laptop, the auditor's staff was able to determine two files that were missing on the first flash drive were added onto the second flash drive on July 10.

"My office has no idea whether the failure to provide all the documents initially was intentional or merely an error," Allred said in a Tuesday evening email. "However, my office disagrees with the Executive Branch assertion that they provided all documents to the Legislature prior to the Legislature's issuance of a subpoena."

In addition to Allred's finding, the prevailing wage issue was further complicated Tuesday after Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, received a letter from Russell Fry, WorkForce West Virginia's acting executive director, which said, "It has come to my attention that certain public records may have been inadvertently excluded."

Although still reviewing the contents of the documents he was provided yesterday, Blair expressed disappointment and frustration.

"We're playing a big coconut shell game and we get to find out whether the prizes are under the shell," he said. "That shell game is a racket."

Blair, the chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee, initially wrote to Fry on June 2. He asked the director for "any communications, either written or electronic, that you may have received from private entities seeking to provide influence with respect to the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology."

Blair also asked for a copy of any full report the group submitted to the Secretary of State's office regarding the development of the methodology for the prevailing wage rate.

In a reply dated June 18, Fry provided Blair with a copy of a 40-page report by WorkForce on the new methodology.

In his response letter, Fry added, "WorkForce West Virginia has not received either written or electronic communication from private entities seeking to influence the development of the prevailing wage methodology."

Fry did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Among 135 pages of documents attached to the latest letter to Blair, which he didn't receive until Tuesday, are multiple emails between Fry and Affiliated Construction Trades executive director Steve White, as well as several emails from Affiliated Construction Trades research director Lesly Messina and members of WorkForce.

It was those emails that Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, were seeking when they sent Fry a subpoena on July 7.

Department of Commerce spokeswoman Chelsea Ruby told the Charleston Gazette emails from the Affiliated Construction Trades were among the thousands of pages Fry provided to the legislative leadership on June 17 with a flash drive. The department subsequently posted the documents found on the flash drive online.

Republicans are expected to call Ruby's claim that the PST files - which are files associated with Microsoft Outlook email and calendars - were included in the first flash drive into question in light of Allred's latest finding.

As of press time, Blair said he was still searching through the newly provided documents before making any statements about them overall.

"The last thing I want to do is have misinformation put into your hands," he told the Daily Mail.

Blair did note that WorkForce did not provide two large PST files despite the fact that they claimed they did.

The two PST files are the ones Allred's office identified as the missing files on the original flash drive provided to the Joint Committee.

Blair said the latest letter from Fry "is practically an admission that the first letter was untruthful."

There has been no prevailing wage in West Virginia since July 1.

Republicans blame WorkForce, which was tasked with determining a new methodology for the state's prevailing wage rates, saying the agency did not factor in U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

WorkForce said the new method includes a survey of more than 5,200 contractors and businesses, which Republicans have openly opposed.

Fry and labor organizations, including the Affiliated Construction Trades, contend the law was followed.

To view all 136 pages WorkForce West Virginia provided Blair on Tuesday, and other prevailing wage-related material, visit http://blogs.charlestondailymail.com/capitolnotebook.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

Charleston CVB beats its own hotel bookings goal http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150714/DM01/150719654 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150714/DM01/150719654 Tue, 14 Jul 2015 17:07:16 -0500 Matt Murphy By Matt Murphy Charleston's Convention and Visitor's Bureau continues to bulk up, exceeding the hotel bookings goal it set the previous fiscal year.

According to its own records, the bureau played a part in securing 27,454 room-nights in fiscal year 2014-15, beating its goal of 27,000 nights.

The figure is more than 2,000 room nights higher than in the 2013-14 fiscal year, when the bureau helped sell 25,158 room nights.

A room night refers to one hotel room reserved for one night.

This fiscal year, which began July 1, the bureau hopes to book 28,350 room nights.

The figures were presented at the bureau's annual meeting Tuesday morning at Appalachian Power Park.

In addition to the room nights, the bureau also met another objective - increasing interaction with Millennial visitors.

The bureau said it more than quadrupled its website visitors from the 18 to 24 age demographic and tripled its website visitors from the 24 to 35 demographic.

Bailey said that bodes well for Charleston as Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as the largest demographic for travel expenditures.

"What we're really proud of is the Millennial numbers," Bailey said. "In the long-term, they're going to be our market."

The bureau has also seen a 40 percent jump in visitors at its Capitol Market visitor center following the addition of formal signs on the interstate. The visitor center itself was opened in late 2013.

For the coming year, Bailey said the bureau plans to its "most aggressive sales plan ever."

Noting that the bureau often books conventions and similar events several years out, renovations to the Civic Center will be able to be marketed as part of the booking process.

Bailey said the bureau plans to increase its presence in trade publications and tourism industry events. It also plans to continue to travel to meet with event planners, taking along Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and local hotel representatives.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at 304-348-4817 or matt.murphy@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on Twitter @DMLocalGov.

Greece reaches deal with creditors, avoids euro exit http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719756 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719756 Mon, 13 Jul 2015 14:38:31 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) - After grueling, often angry negotiations that tested the limits of European unity, Greece on Monday won a preliminary deal that averts financial catastrophe but also guarantees years more of hardship and sacrifice for its people.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras flew home to sell the plan to skeptical lawmakers and political allies, some of whom accused him of putting Greece at the mercy of its foreign creditors.

To close the deal with its partners in the euro currency, Greece had to consent to a raft of austerity measures, including sales tax hikes and reforms to pensions and the labor market.

Enough of Greece's 18 eurozone partners were openly suspicious of its sincerity that they demanded, and got, Tsipras's commitment to accept close international oversight.

For the Greek leader and his radical left-wing government, which since election in January had vowed to stand up to the creditors, the payoff of the marathon negotiations in Brussels was clear: about 85 billion euros ($95.07 billion) in loans and financial support over three years, preserving Greek membership in the euro, and helping their country stave off financial collapse.

"We managed to avoid the most extreme measures," Tsipras said after the summit.

Tsipras said he successfully got creditors to drop a demand that Greek assets be transferred abroad as a form of collateral, and that the deal reached was less harsh than proposals from creditors his country's voters rejected a week ago.

But in many cases, ordinary Greeks now face tougher measures than those they voted down in a nationwide referendum. Syriza's Left Platform, a group of traditionalists in Tsipras's own party, swiftly denounced the agreement he had reached with fellow eurozone leaders as the "worst deal possible ... that maintains the country's status: a debt colony under a German-run European Union."

After flying home to Athens, Tsipras went to the prime minister's office to meet with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and other top party officials. To abide by the agreement and ensure that negotiations on a new infusion of financial aid for Greece can start in earnest, Tsipras must push several unpalatable measures through Parliament by Wednesday.

Passage appears assured, though he faces an uphill battle to persuade members of his own party, as well as his governing coalition partner, a small right-wing party, to back the deal.

Greece needs another bailout, its third in five years, to dig itself from under a mountain of debt and get its economy back on its feet after a six-year depression. Following months of talks with its eurozone partners and other international creditors, its economy is teetering on the brink of collapse - banks have been shut for two weeks and daily business has almost ground to a halt.

Greece will now be on a tight timetable to implement the new reforms - another reflection of how little its creditors trust the government to honor a deal. Both sides in Brussels acknowledged the bitterness that marked their negotiations, which lasted nine hours past a Sunday midnight deadline.

"Trust needs to be rebuilt," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that with the Monday deal, "Greece has a chance to return to the path of growth."

"The Greeks have to show they're credible, show that they mean it," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers and a longtime critic of the Tsipras government.

French President Francois Hollande hailed the agreement, saying that losing Greece from the eurozone would have been akin to losing "the heart of our civilization."

But experts noted that even with the deal, Greece's problems are not over.

"This agreement pulls Greece back from the brink of economic chaos but remains far from ensuring its long-term economic viability within the eurozone," says Eswar Prasad, professor of trade policy at Cornell University. "Greece will face many challenges in delivering on the package of reforms it has promised... The Greek economy faces a wrenching period ahead as it copes with economic, social, and political instability resulting from tough fiscal discipline, sweeping reforms, and an eviscerated social safety net."

Greece's banks, which have been shut for two weeks, were still closed Monday and limits remained on cash withdrawals. When they reopen will depend on the European Central Bank's decision to allow them to draw on more emergency credit. It may do so only after the first reforms are passed by parliament in Greece.

In weeks to come, Greece will have to make further changes to its economy, such as open to competition industries that have long been protected, such as the energy sector.

If it meets all of the requirements spelled out in Monday's agreement, Greece will get a three-year rescue program and a commitment to restructure its debt, which is unsustainably high at around 320 billion euros, or around 180 percent of annual GDP.

Ordinary Greeks seemed relieved that their country was not facing a messy exit from the euro.

Kostas Lambos, a pensioner in Athens, said things would be "difficult in the beginning" but people had to understand the severity of the situation.

"This was a necessary step for the country to emerge from the dead ends that had been created in the last few years," he said.

Since 2010, Greece has received two bailouts, totaling 240 billion euros ($268 billion), in return for deep spending cuts, tax increases and reforms agreed to by successive Greek governments. Although the country's budget deficit has fallen sharply, the public debt burden has increased as the economy has shrunk by a quarter.

Its creditors said they would help Greece in the short term to repay its debts since a full agreement on the third bailout still lies ahead. Greece will need help making a 4.2 billion euro debt repayment on July 20. It is also in arrears on about 1.5 billion euros owed to the International Monetary Fund.

Natural gas surpasses coal as biggest US electricity source http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719764 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719764 Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:49:30 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

Natural gas overtook coal as the top source of U.S. electric power generation for the first time ever earlier this spring, a milestone that has been in the making for years as the price of gas slides and new regulations make coal more risky for power generators.

About 31 percent of electric power generation in April came from natural gas, and 30 percent from coal, according to a recently released report from the research company SNL Energy, which used data from the U.S. Energy Department. Nuclear power came in third at 20 percent.

A drilling boom that started in 2008 has boosted U.S. natural gas production by 30 percent and made the United States the world's biggest combined producer of oil and natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing has allowed energy companies to tap huge volumes of gas trapped deep underground in shale formations.

That has driven the price of natural gas sharply lower to levels about a third of what they were just 10 years ago.

At the same time, power companies have been installing more natural gas turbines at their plants as they make them more flexible and retiring some older coal-fired facilities. They have long switched between natural gas and coal, depending on commodity prices. However, new regulations that aim to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases, and the risk that more are on the way, have added pressure to make the switch.

The burning of natural gas produces carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, but far less than coal.

The Obama administration next month is expected to complete a so-called Clean Power Plan intended to cut Earth-warming pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. The rule will set the first national limits on carbon dioxide coming from existing power plants and set in motion one of the most significant U.S. actions ever to address global warming. The United States limits emissions of arsenic, mercury and lead pollution from power plants, but there are no national limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to block the rule, and some GOP governors have said their states will not comply.

These regulatory and price changes have begun to play out in usage data.

Federal data show that in April, the amount of electricity generated with natural gas climbed 21 percent compared to April 2014, while the amount generated with coal fell 19 percent.

In April 2010, 44 percent of electric power generation came from coal and 22 percent from gas, according to SNL Energy.

The amount of coal and gas used will continue to vary depending on price.

The EIA said in a May report that it expects the level of coal-generated electricity to rebound as natural gas prices rise later this year and coal-fired plants return from spring maintenance. Overall, the EIA expects about 36 percent of total U.S. electricity generation to come from coal in 2015 and 31 percent to come from natural gas.

Entrepreneurship training offered to W.Va. veterans, spouses http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719789 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/ARTICLE/150719789 Mon, 13 Jul 2015 09:37:34 -0500 HENLAWSON, W.Va. (AP) - The U.S. Small Business Administration is giving West Virginia veterans an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of owning a business.

The SBA will host an entrepreneurship training course for veterans and their spouses on Wednesday and Thursday at the Veterans Center in Henlawson.

The agency says the Boots to Business: Reboot course will provide instruction on evaluating business concepts and developing a business plan. Participants also will be introduced to a network of lifetime business support.

W.Va. ranks 43rd in fiscal strength http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/DM05/150719830 DM05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/DM05/150719830 Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:52:30 -0500


For the Daily Mail



For the Daily Mail

A report by conservative think-tank Mercatus Research at George Mason University ranks West Virginia 43rd out of 50 states according to measures of financial strength released on July 7th.

The study, "Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition," by researcher Eileen Norcross, compared the balance sheet of each state at the end of fiscal year 2013. (The full report is available at http://mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings.)

The paper explains that no single measure or group of measures can capture all of a state's intricate fiscal picture; but they can provide easy-to-see measures to help flag patterns.

It does not attempt to determine any causes of fiscal stress or provide remedies, but rather tries to measure states' financial strength on a common basis.

Financial strength of a state, business or family is based on what's left over, not what is earned. A high-earning family, for example, can have nothing left over at the end of the month while a low-earning family can generate cash depending on its level of expenses.

This report, therefore, measures performance at the end of fiscal year 2013 in five categories: cash, budget, long-run solvency, service-level solvency and trust fund solvency.

Cash: Three measurements - cash ratio, current ratio and quick ratio - are considered together by the report, and they rank West Virginia as 35th among all states.

We have less cash on hand than the average state with $1.52 (average $2.23) for every $1 of bills due within the next twelve months (cash ratio). While not stellar, it's better than 14 states who have cash ratios of less than one (owing more short-term liabilities than the cash they have) including neighboring Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as North Carolina. On the flip side, Ohio ($5.13) and Florida ($6.76) have very strong cash ratios.

However, the cash ratio isn't a complete picture of our ability to pay current bills. The current ratio divides current assets (what we have that's cash or will turn into cash within twelve months) by current liabilities (what we owe that will require cash in twelve months).

West Virginia scores a respectable $2.05 of current assets for every $1 of current liabilities, as a 2:1 ratio in business or greater is good. The bad news is that the average state has $3.37. Again North Carolina and Pennsylvania score below us, but we stand in awe of Ohio ($7.36) and Florida ($7.81).

The quick ratio is similar to the current ratio except it removes some less than liquid current assets (inventory, to use an example from business.) A ratio greater than one indicates sufficient reserves. We score a respectable $1.80. But then again, the average state reports $3.02.

Budget: We rank 37 out of 50. We expect to take in $1.02 compared to every $1 we expect to spend. That's not far below the average at $1.07.

On a per-person basis, we plan to take in $116.65 more than we spend. Most states are at $210 per person or more.

We're low, but neighbors Maryland and Kentucky are going in the hole.

Long-Run Solvency: Here, three measurements are used and, when combined, show us at 28th - our highest standing, which is still slightly below middle.

The net asset ratio measures total assets (current and long-term assets, including land and buildings) minus debt. Here we own 11 percent of the 100 percent of total assets. Creditors own the other 89 percent so to speak.

While that may seem low, it is a marked betterment than most. The state in the middle stands at 3 percent. Neighbors Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and nearby North Carolina, again, owe more than they own.

The long-term liability ratio represents the proportion of long-term liabilities (excluding current liabilities) to total assets. The lower the number the better.

We're at 25 percent while the average is 40 percent, so we're better on average; however, at the same time, we stand in the middle among all the states, as we're 28th out of 50. That's because an average of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 200 is 150, but the number in the middle is 30. Good, but not stellar.

On a per-person basis, our long-term liabilities are $2,443, close to the average of $2,768. Nebraska has the lowest at $254, and New Jersey has the highest at $8,662.

Service-Level Solvency: West Virginia ranks near the middle on this scale at 28th (lower is better) and compares our combination of taxes, expenses and revenue to state personal income.

This purports to indicate the amount of room the state has to raise taxes should a sudden need arise. The report, though, cautions this measure "is the most subjective of the five indexes and care should be taken in interpreting the scores and underlying ratios."

Nonetheless, West Virginia taxes as a percentage of personal income was reported at 8 percent while total state revenue is 18 percent of personal income, and our expenses are also 18 percent rounded.

Trust Fund Solvency: Here, we rank 32nd among the 50 states.

One would think that our long-run liabilities would include all long-term debt, but it doesn't. It doesn't measure the unfunded pensions for instance.

This is similar to promising to pay $50 in five weeks but only putting aside $5 a week to do so. One would have $25 when the debt is due, but will owe $50. This difference essentially is the unfunded debt.

Adding short- and long-term liabilities (debt) to unfunded pension estimates and comparing it to what everyone in the state earns, it shows our primary debt is 5 percent, the pensions represent 29 percent and other post-employment employee benefits is another 5 percent. That means our total debt equals about 39 percent of what we together earn each year.

What should it be? A conservative person might spend 35 percent of pretax income on a mortgage, although Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards allow as much as 45 percent. On the flip side, debt-hating-talk-show host Dave Ramsey says our housing payment (including property taxes and insurance) should be no more than our take-home income.

My take: I give West Virginia a C-minus on financial strength, but that's a big improvement from the late 1980s, when we would have failed.

Tom Crouser is founder, principal and president of Crouser & Associates, Inc., a consulting and publishing business.

State colleges change names to attract out-of-state students http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/ARTICLE/150719833 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/ARTICLE/150719833 Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:42:38 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

CASTLETON, Vt. (AP) - What's in a name? For colleges looking to gain prestige along with more students and precious out-of-state tuition dollars, plenty.

Faced with declining enrollment, reduced public funding or both, some state colleges and universities are adding graduate programs and changing their names to attract more students and compete with private institutions.

Vermont's Castleton State College has added five graduate programs in the past five years and hopes to become Castleton University to reflect what it has become and to attract more out-of-state and foreign students, who pay more in out-of-state tuition rates and could help offset budget concerns.

"We need to be somewhat entrepreneurial in other areas of where we can generate revenue, and certainly graduate programs are one of those areas where we can experience growth," school spokesman Jeffrey Weld said.

It's normal for colleges to rename themselves as they grow and change. But Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, is seeing more of it, as community colleges become state colleges and state colleges become universities based on what they now offer students.

"To some, this represents the natural growth and evolution of campuses in response to state needs, but to others this just represents old-fashioned mission creep," he said.

The Richard Stockton State College of New Jersey became Stockton University this year in order to reflect its growth in graduate programs. Luring more out-of-state students is an added benefit, spokeswoman Maryjane Briant said.

The former Troy State University in Troy, Alabama, which has 12 percent international students on campus and offers overseas programs for military personnel and online offerings, opted to drop the "state" from its name in 2004 to better reflect the school's reach, spokesman Andy Ellis said. The idea of drawing more out-of-state students to pay higher tuition was a contributing factor, he said.

Mesa State College in Grand Junction Colorado changed to Colorado Mesa University in 2011; and six Massachusetts state colleges became state universities in 2010.

Most states are spending less per student in the 2014-2015 school year than they did in 2008, the start of the Great Recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are spending more than 35 percent less on per-student funding since the start of the recession, and in 13 states that funding dropped over the past year.

Castleton, a school of roughly 2,000 students, hopes that a change to Castleton University will give the school a broader appeal, particularly to out-of-state and foreign students.

Castleton's state appropriation as a percentage of its operating budget has dropped around 6 percent over the past 10 years. The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees sets the in-state tuition, now about $10,000 a year for undergraduates. Castleton comes up with the out-of-state tuition, now more than $25,000, based on its budget and projections and subject to board approval.

About 70 percent are Vermont students; 30 percent are out-of-staters. But Castleton would like to attract more.

"Sixty-forty is a healthy place to be," Weld said. "It gives up a lot more flexibility in terms of stabilizing tuition prices, it gives us a lot more flexibility in enhancing our offerings."

Texas restaurant chain takes stand against state's open carry law http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/ARTICLE/150719841 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/ARTICLE/150719841 Sun, 12 Jul 2015 15:01:46 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - An iconic Texas restaurant chain will not allow the open carrying of guns on its properties, and industry experts say other restaurants will likely take the same stand against a new state law legalizing the practice in many public places.

Whataburger - with some 780 locations in 10 states - has drawn a mix of praise and rebuke since making the announcement this month, including a prediction of boycotts from one of the state's leading advocates for gun rights.

In an open letter on the company's website, Whataburger president and CEO Preston Atkinson said many employees and customers are "uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm." He described himself as an avid hunter with a concealed-carry license and noted that patrons licensed to carry concealed handguns will still be able to do so in Whataburger.

Atkinson's letter comes one month after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that made it legal to carry handguns openly on the streets of the nation's second most-populous state, ending a prohibition dating back to the post-Civil War era that disarmed former Confederate soldiers and freed slaves.

The law, which gives private property owners the right to prohibit open carry, was hailed as a victory for gun rights advocates who have staged high-profile rallies at the Alamo and Texas Capitol over the past couple of years. Some even brought military-style assault rifles into businesses as part of their demonstrations, prompting the Chipotle restaurant chain to discourage firearms on their premises.

Whataburger's decision is expected to pave the way for other restaurants to enact similar policies that will further limit where gun owners can openly carry their firearms when the law takes effect in January.

Texas Restaurant Association CEO Richie Jackson said he wasn't surprised by Whataburger's advance announcement, noting that "gun rights do not trump property rights" under the new law.

"It can't be kept a secret," he said. "Given the number of units that they have in Texas, they just wanted to make it very clear as to where they were going to be, and I would expect to see a number of restaurants follow."

But Open Carry Texas founder C.J. Grisham said Whataburger's policy was "premature and irresponsible," and that the restaurant caved to "fear mongering."

"I think most gun owners that know this policy are simply not going to go to Whataburger, like me," he said.

The group Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America put out a statement applauding Whataburger's actions. The organization has successfully petitioned other chains, including Sonic and Chili's Grill & Bar, to adopt similar policies.

Stephanie Lundy, spokeswoman for the organization's Texas chapter, said she has spoken to mothers who have teenage children working in the company's restaurants late at night. "They do not feel that part of their job description should involve assessing the intention of armed folks," she said.

She described Atkinson's announcement as "good old Texas common sense."

"Texans are bold and brave," she said. "And that is what you are seeing from this CEO who is a gun owner."

Patrons have reacted in different ways.

Outside a Whataburger in San Antonio, Charlie Hair said he would feel safer if the chain allowed customers to openly carry firearms. "I prefer an armed society to an unarmed one," he said as he exited with his 8-year-old son.

But Mary Jones, who was with her 15-year-old grandson, said she was happy that Whataburger took a stand against open carry.

"Why do you need to bring a gun into a store where there are kids?" she asked. "We are not in the Wild, Wild West."

Putnam board approves plans for Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709222 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709222 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 22:35:44 -0500 Marcus Constantino By Marcus Constantino The Putnam County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Thursday to approve a conditional use permit for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to be built in Teays Valley.

Board members Patty Schiffour, Tony Hodge and Jessie Parker, Jr. voted that the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market's developers, Bencor Properties, Inc., had met eight criteria required for the board to approve the permit. Al Ruebush voted against the permit based on the increased traffic the new store would bring to the already-congested Teays Valley Road.

More than a hundred residents, many wearing stickers saying "We Are Relevant," groaned as the decision was made, marking a turning point in a months-long battle by residents to fend off the proposed grocery store.

Tom Susman of TSG Consulting, a public relations firm that has been representing a coalition of residents asking the board not to approve the conditional use permit, said the fight to keep the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market from being built is far from over.

"I'm very disappointed," Susman said. "They clearly didn't follow the ordinance, clearly didn't meet the criteria and clearly this shouldn't have been approved. It's going to be appealed, it's going to go to circuit court, it's going to be a long time before this store is ever built."

The majority of the Board of Zoning Appeals members found that, among other things, the proposed development would not cause unnecessary noise, vibrations, safety issues, traffic congestion, light pollution or a decrease in surrounding residential property values.

The 43,000-square-foot store is poised to be built along W.Va. 34 (Teays Valley Road) at the intersection of Renard Run, between the Teays Valley Interstate 64 exit and Valley Park.

Wal-Mart public relations director Kevin Thompson said Wal-Mart does not typically see backlash to its stores being built in other markets, but that he is happy with the board's decision.

"Clearly some of the people here are disappointed in the board's actions, but this is the process," Thompson said. "This is what a special use permit is designed to do, to give the Board of Zoning Appeals the opportunity to weigh in on individual projects. We are pleased with their actions and the thoughtful approach they took."

The board voted to set additional conditions if Bencor and Wal-Mart were to continue developing the property. Operating hours and deliveries would be restricted to 6 a.m to 11 p.m. The gas station would still be allowed to be open 24 hours. Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market had proposed staying open 24 hours.

Thompson requested the board extend the closing time one hour later to midnight because no other Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in the country closed at 11 p.m., but the board did not take action on the request.

The board also voted to require an eight-foot fence around the perimeter of the store, and Norway spruces would have to be planted on the east side of the property. Wal-Mart would not be allowed to place signage on the west or south sides of the building, and sound systems and paging systems would be forbidden on the outside of the store.

One of the most contentious points of the debate among board members was the traffic studies done by the Division of Highways and by Bencor. Todd Simmons, an engineer from Bencor, said he received conditional approval from the Division of Highways on its traffic impact study, which calls for the installation of a new traffic light on Teays Valley Road at the entrance to the store.

Ruebush argued the additional 6,000 cars per day the new store would bring to the area would cause traffic issues.

"To me that's huge," Ruebush said. "That's a lot of traffic in a very short span of roadway... I can't imagine we can add 6,000 ins and outs per day and it not create a hazardous condition."

Ruebush's comment drew applause from the audience, which had to be silenced multiple times - at one point, Stephen Sluss, board president, threatened to throw everyone out of the meeting.

Schiffour said the board should trust the Division of Highways traffic engineers' approval of the impact study. Travis Miller, a traffic engineer with Mountaineer Engineering and Transportation Solutions, said the traffic signal would be networked with other signals in the area so that traffic would be moved through the area most efficiently, and red light timings would differ depending on the time of day.

"(The Division of Highways) are the ones, it's their job to have the best interest of the traveling public of their thoughts," Miller said. "They can't rightfully approve an impact study if they deem it to be a dangerous situation. The traffic impact study has been approved."

Fox Run residents argued that the traffic impact study did not take their subdivision into consideration, and many believed that despite the board's vote, property values around the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market would be affected.

Fox Run resident Tawny Hill fears she will not be able to sell her home now that it's next to a Wal-Mart store.

"They will not be able to sleep at night," Hill said, referring to the board. "My property value, I would have never bought my house if there had been a Wal-Mart next door. Never."

She said the conditions the board set helped some, but she believes the delivery trucks coming in and out of the store would be a nuisance. Thompson said there would be around one or two Wal-Mart trucks per day coming to the store, and around three to five smaller vendor trucks per day.

"I have a 10,000 square foot house. Who would want to buy a 10,000 square foot house next door to a Wal-Mart? No one," Hill said. "I will have to live in that house until I die because no one will ever buy it."

Wal-Mart can still decide not to build a store at the location based on the conditions set by the board. Thompson said the company has no alternative sites planned if it chooses not to build at its current Teays Valley property.

"We're going to go back and look at some of the conditions," Thompson said. "A lot of them are things that we're happy to live with and we think make good sense as good neighbors. There are a few others that we'll have to go back and take a look at to see how they work from our standpoint as a retailer."

The next Putnam Board of Zoning Appeals meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 13.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

Dark financial cloud looms over Trace Fork soccer fields http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709228 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709228 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 21:28:20 -0500 Marcus Constantino By Marcus Constantino The Friends of Coal Fields at Trace Fork play host to hundreds of soccer games and thousands of hours of practices each year. Field rental and sponsorship revenue typically pays the bills, but unpaid debts from a 2011 renovation and expansion project are threatening to put the sports complex into foreclosure.

Kanawha-Charleston Soccer Foundation president Sam Fox said the foundation owes $1.2 million on a loan that helped it finance a new, state-of-the-art artificial turf field with new bleachers and lights, along with a new grass field, in 2011. The principal on the loan must be paid by September 2016; if it's not paid, Fox said BB&T may foreclose the fields.

That would leave George Washington and Charleston Catholic high schools' boys and girls soccer teams, and the University of Charleston and Sissonville High School girls soccer teams without a home field.

“It's like a ticking time bomb,” Fox said. “If we don't pay it off by (September 2016), then we're going to lose the fields.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Soccer Foundation was formed in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It acquired its property behind the Shops at Trace Fork and started out with four soccer fields in 2007.

Since then, soccer has enjoyed a boom in popularity in the United States. Enrollment in area rec leagues surged, and the foundation had to build two new fields to keep up with demand.

Fox said community and corporate donations, which helped build the Trace Fork complex in the last decade for $2.4 million, haven't been as strong as the foundation had anticipated in recent years.

“The donations are adequate to allow us to maintain our month-to-month and year-to-year operations,” Fox said. “Just to keep up with our expenses on a month-to-month basis, we've been successful in renting the fields and we also have advertising income from signage. However, we don't have the contributions that have allowed us to pay down any principal on the note that we have.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Soccer Foundation has no paid employees, according to the most recent Form 990 it filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Fox said everything from field maintenance and grass mowing to concession stand operations is done by volunteers.

The complex has hosted the state high school soccer tournament, the United States Collegiate Athletic Association's national soccer championships travel league games, adult soccer league games and even corporate events. It also hosts other sports, such as the West Virginia Lightning semi-pro football team.

Fox estimates “tens of thousands” of kids and adults from West Virginia and surrounding states have used the facility over the past five years.

If the Kanawha-Charleston Soccer Foundation were to default on the loan, Fox said the fields would likely never see another game again. He said they would likely be converted into more retail space.

“I've had people from all over the state come to Trace Fork to play soccer games and they hold our complex as one of the best in the state,” Fox said. “If we lost that, that would be a huge punch in the gut for our community.”

Fox said anyone interested in making a donation to the Kanawha-Charleston Soccer Foundation can call 304-546-8063 or mail a donation to: P.O. Box 628, Charleston, WV 25322-0628. Donations to the foundation are tax-deductible.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

Bojangles' looking to open more W.Va., Ky. locations http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709251 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709251 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 18:57:21 -0500 Marcus Constantino By Marcus Constantino Bojangles' opened its only West Virginia location in Princeton on Monday, but the popular southern fast-food chain plans to open more restaurants in the state as early as this year.

The Charlotte-based company announced in a press release that it has signed a new development agreement with a franchise group with the hopes of bringing new Bojangles restaurants to "major markets" in West Virginia and Kentucky starting as early as this year. The new restaurants will come in addition to the newly opened location at 701 Oakdale Road in Princeton and a Corbin, Ky., restaurant that's slated to open in August.

"Bojangles' has a fiercely loyal customer following throughout the Southeast, and we are excited to expand our footprint in both West Virginia and Kentucky to bring more of our famous made-from-scratch menu items to new markets and new guests," said Clifton Rutledge, Bojangles' CEO.

Bojangles' has more than 600 locations - primarily in the Carolinas and other Southeast states. The new restaurants throughout Kentucky and West Virginia are part of Bojangles' strategic growth plan, the company said in a statement, and it plans to open between 50 to 57 new restaurant locations system-wide in 2015.

A Bojangles' spokesperson declined to discuss what West Virginia markets are being considered for expansion. Two Bojangles' restaurants are currently open in the state of Kentucky - one in London and another in Franklin.

Bojangles' features southern classics including hand-breaded bone-in chicken, buttermilk biscuits, sandwiches, "fixin's" and iced tea.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

Businesses capitalize on Shark Week fandom http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/ARTICLE/150709263 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/ARTICLE/150709263 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 16:49:53 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) - Head over to Cody VandeZande's condo in Chicago and you won't find a room without sharks.

He's the proud possessor of shark bookends, figurines and photos of that time he and his boyfriend were lowered 70 feet into the ocean in a cage to commune with Great Whites off the southern tip of Australia. And there's a recent acquisition, a shark-shaped bed for ambassador Chuck, their cat, who has a shark outfit in his vast wardrobe.

"We love Shark Week," VandeZande put it mildly in a telephone interview Wednesday. "We have a mini Christmas tree with a whole bunch of shark ornaments hanging off of it."

It will lend that festive touch to their Shark Week party on Saturday, complete with Hammerhead Highballs in ocean blue, thanks to a touch of Curacao liqueur.

Shark Week, which launched into its 28th year on Discovery Channel on Sunday, has taken on a more serious tone this time around, considering a spate of bites off summer beaches, but that hasn't put a damper on product frenzy, including some that sets proceeds aside for shark education and ocean conservation.

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is back for a second year of partnering with Discovery on a limited edition Shark Fin Soap (yes, it has a fin) to support United Conservationists and a global effort to end the slaughter of sharks for that very asset.

The soap raised more than $70,000 last year and Discovery doubled its order to 42,000 bars this time around, said Josh Kovolenko, the channel's vice president of marketing. At $5.95 a pop, 100 percent of the proceeds are donated, he said.

"Philanthropy is a strong piece for us," Kovolenko said. "Shark Week is a ton of fun, but we look for that commitment as well."

Sunglass maker Knockaround also loves sharks, already selling out of a limited edition style of shades, the Shark Week Premiums. Sale of the glasses with Great White graphics earned $5 of every $35 purchase for Oceana, a nonprofit focused on protecting the world's oceans. The company sold 3,500 by the middle of Shark Week and raised close to $20,000.

Shark Week-themed products began taking off about four years ago.

"We said what better way to leverage that buzz but to give consumers the opportunity to contribute. There's a lot of, 'What can I do help?' among our fans online. Now it's really become an iconic part of the week itself," Kovolenko said.

Not all of the channel's partners, or the makers of lesser shark schlock, are philanthropists, but VandeZande is.

He's using Kickstarter to help with a picture book he wrote and illustrated about a Great White named Oli who saves Christmas and plans to donate a portion of proceeds over his $5,000 goal to shark awareness.

The flow of shark product includes everything from themed cupcakes and ice cream to undies and the Sharkini, a one-piece swimsuit with a huge, toothy bite out of one side that retails for $120 at Badabydesigns.com. British designers Wool and the Gang and Christopher Raeburn have turned their chunky, shark mittens into a knitting kit they're selling for $68 at Woolandthegang.com, and Pinterest is piled high with T-shirts, wacky head gear and beer can holders.

While his boyfriend has been a shark fan since he was a kid, the 28-year-old VandeZande, a hair stylist, is a more recent recruit all things shark due to their diving trip two years ago to commune with the creatures up close and personal.

"It was so scary but so amazing," he said. "I remember this huge shadow swimming across the cage. At that moment, it was like, 'Holy cow, this is crazy."'

About two weeks ago, VandeZande was perusing Instagram, where Chuck - (at)chuck.the.duck - has his own feed, when he ran across the shark bed from Thecatball.com, based in Bellevue, Washington.

The hexagonal, all-cotton Great White Shark Cat Ball Kitty Bed goes for $99. The small company founded by Jennifer Schmidt, with help from hubby Chris Boaro, decided in 2013 to extend their pod-like line of cat beds to a shark design.

Now, there's a slight Shark Week bump every year. The shark thing was Boaro's idea and the couple plans to turn over 5 percent of proceeds from all shark beds sold during Shark Week to United Conservationists, likely amounting to about $500.

"Like all intelligent people, I love Shark Week," Boaro said by phone. "But Jennifer wasn't a fan until I indoctrinated her. Eventually I convinced her that a few other people might be as taken with the idea of seeing their kitties eaten by a Great White."

Greek hopes for keeping euro rise as creditors open to discuss debt relief http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/ARTICLE/150709269 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/ARTICLE/150709269 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 16:19:16 -0500


The Associated Press



The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Hopes that Greece can get a rescue deal that will prevent a catastrophic exit from the euro rose on Thursday, after key creditors said they were open to discussing how to ease the country's debt load, a long-time sticking point in their talks.

Greece's government is racing to finalize and submit a plan of reforms for its third bailout on Thursday to give creditors time to review it ahead of a summit of the European Union's 28 members on Sunday.

While creditors are waiting to see whether Greece will offer the full range of economic measures they have asked for, Donald Tusk, who chairs the EU summits, indicated that European officials would make an effort to address Greece's key request for debt relief.

"The realistic proposal from Greece will have to be matched by an equally realistic proposal on debt sustainability from the creditors. Only then will we have a win-win situation," Tusk said.

Greece has long argued its debt is too high to be paid back and that the country requires some form of debt relief. The International Monetary Fund agrees with the premise, but key European states like Germany have resisted the idea.

On Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the possibility of some kind of debt relief would be discussed over coming days, though he cautioned it may not provide much help.

"The room for maneuver through debt reprofiling or restructuring is very small," he said.

Making Greece's debt more sustainable would likely involve lowering the interest rates and extending the repayment dates on its bailout loans. Germany and many other European countries rule out an outright debt cut, arguing it would be illegal under European treaties.

The comments on Thursday boosted market confidence that a compromise will be found. The Stoxx 50 index of top European shares was up 2.4 percent in late afternoon trading.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with finance ministry officials and was holding a cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon to finalize his country's plan, a day after his government requested a new three-year aid program from Europe's bailout fund and promised to immediately enact reforms, including to taxes and pensions, in return.

The last-minute negotiations come as Greece's financial system teeters on the brink of collapse. It has imposed restrictions on banking transactions since June 29, limiting cash withdrawals to 60 euros ($67) per day to stanch a bank run. Banks and the stock market have been shut for just as long.

The closures, which have been extended through Monday, have led to daily lines at ATM machines and have hammered businesses. Payments abroad have been banned without special permission.

"Can you see anybody in the shop? Nobody's coming in, because everyone's living off a drip," said Magda Petridi, a fortune teller who runs a shop selling good luck charms, aromatic oils and trinkets. "Until a month ago business was going pretty well."

Pensioners without bank cards have been particularly hard hit as they have struggled to access their accounts. Some branches have been opened so the elderly and unemployed without bank cards can withdraw a maximum weekly sum of 120 euros each. Hundreds lined up outside banks Thursday morning, many facing hours-long waits in the heat.

Meanwhile, many ATMs had a shortage of 20 euro notes, effectively reducing the daily withdrawal limit to 50 euros.

If Tsipras does not get a deal, Greece faces an almost inevitable collapse of the banking system, which would be the first step for the country to fall out of the euro.

"I believe he will have to get an agreement. We will pay dearly for it, but at least we'll get an agreement," said mechanic Pantelis Niarchos, walking down the street in central Athens.

After months of fruitless negotiations with Tsipras' government, elected in January on promises to repeal bailout austerity, the skeptical eurozone creditor states have said they want to see a detailed, cost-accounted plan of the reforms.

Greece's financial institutions have been kept afloat so far by emergency liquidity assistance from the European Central Bank. But the ECB has not increased the amount in days, leaving the lenders in a stranglehold despite capital controls.

German ECB governing council member Jens Weidmann argued Greek banks should not get more emergency credit from the central bank unless a bailout deal is struck.

He said it was up to eurozone governments and Greek leaders themselves to rescue Greece.

The central bank "has no mandate to safeguard the solvency of banks and governments," he said in a speech.

The ECB capped emergency credit to Greek banks amid doubt whether the country will win further rescue loans from other countries. The banks closed and limited ATM withdrawals because they had no other way to replace deposits.

Weidmann said he welcomed the fact that central bank credit "is no longer being used to finance capital flight caused by the Greek government."